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Knights put up a fight but cannot defeat Plant
By JAMAL THALJI and JILL COUSINS
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000
SARASOTA -- When the end came it was neither swift nor painless. River Ridge stretched that last marathon of a game nearly 40 minutes, holding onto the match and holding off Plant as long as it could, playing with a fierce grit mustered by a team with seven seniors who did not want their careers to end.
But end they did Saturday afternoon.
Plant, the No. 7 team in Class 5A, fought off furious rally after furious rally from No. 10 River Ridge in the second game to hold onto a hard-fought 15-8, 15-12 victory in the Class 5A, Region 3 semifinal at Sarasota.
The Royal Knights (23-6) overcame a shaky start in the first game to push the Panthers to the end of the second. But with no breaks or calls going its way, River Ridge cut a six-point lead to just two, but could get no closer.
Afterward, Royal Knights coach Heidi Castelamare held an emotional team meeting outside the gym, as family members and fans who made the trip from New Port Richey cheered the team and seniors Jen Brumbaugh, Brandi Young, Robin Anderson, Brie Redfield, Lisa Karcinski, Jayme Johnson and Jen Dombroski after their last game together.
"It doesn't feel like it's over yet," Young said.
Castelamare said it took River Ridge the first game to adjust to Plant's quick sets and short serves. But even as the Knights adjusted and made a run at the second-game lead, the Panthers' frontcourt sent hard spike after spike into their court.
River Ridge's offense gave Plant plenty of trouble, too, but the Knights could not consistently get the ball to their big hitters.
"They have a great offense, they have good setters and excellent hitters, but we played right with them," Castelamare said. "Nothing (went our way.) But that's okay. We're used to fighting that stuff."
Young led her team with 10 kills and Ali Bigger had six. Dombroski led with seven blocks. Dawn Conner had five aces.
No. 3 Countryside won 15-10, 15-9 over No. 6 Sarasota (27-6) in the other semifinal before advancing to face Plant and defeating the Panthers 15-12, 15-4. -- JAMAL THALJI
WINTER SPRINGS -- In both the Class A, Region I semifinals and finals, Seven Rivers Christian had to overcome first-game jitters. But the Warriors fought back in both matches to earn their first trip to the Class A state championship tournament at Walt Disney World's Wide World of Sports Complex next week.
Seven Rivers (16-4) defeated The Master's Academy, 14-16, 15-8, 15-5, at Indian Trails Middle School on Saturday night. On Saturday afternoon, the Warriors defeated Altha, 10-15, 15-7, 15-7, in the semifinal.
"In the earlier match, we were just nervous," senior setter Sherry Atwood said. "Then tonight we started off slow. I don't know what it was. We were messing up. I guess you don't want to admit it, but I think it was nerves once again. Then we just said, "We want to take it; let's step it up.' We weren't ready to stop playing volleyball."
Middle blocker Danielle Albury, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, led both teams with 15 kills in the championship match. Atwood, who transferred last year from Keswick Christian, had four kills and five service winners and teamed with Kristyn O'Neal for four blocks. Senior Julie Green had an ace and service winner during a string of eight unanswered points in the third game to give Seven Rivers an insurmountable 10-1 lead.
In the semifinal against Altha (18-7), Seven Rivers blew a 10-5 lead in the first game before rebounding to win the final two. -- JILL COUSINS
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