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Epic battles on Blanding; MHS v RHS looming

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 9/28/22

ORANGE PARK - The noise was loud enough that the Ridgeview volleyball team could probably hear when the Middleburg volleyball team scored in a unique battle of titans just eight miles apart.

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Epic battles on Blanding; MHS v RHS looming


ORANGE PARK - The noise was loud enough that the Ridgeview volleyball team could probably hear when the Middleburg volleyball team scored in a unique battle of titans just eight miles apart.

With the volleyball district tournaments looming in mid-October, Middleburg and Ridgeview volleyball, both in the same district 4-5A along with Clay, St. Augustine, Daytona Beach Mainland and Daytona Beach Seabreeze, on paper, looks to be a championship showdown possibility between the Panthers and the Broncos.

On Thurs., Sept. 23, both teams played arguably two of the best teams in the state; Middleburg vs. Bartram Trail and Ridgeview vs. Bishop Kenny, in a quick peek of championship mettle for both teams.

“It definitely was a test of our girls ability to rise to championship level play,” said Ridgeview coach Steven Henry, intent on keeping district title win streak intact for an eighth season. “Bishop Kenny, in years past when in our region, was the team that kept us from advancing to the state tournament for like four years in a row. They are a great program and they came to play us tough.”

For Middleburg coach Carrie Prewitt, who will be trying to exorcise some state championship demons from her history of deep playoff runs halted near the gates of victory, the way her girls mindset was going into the Bartram Trail game impressed her the most.

“Our record is never really impressive on its face value because I play a rough schedule all the time to battle test the team,” said Prewitt, who is celebrating her final season as Bronco coach hopefully with another deep playoff run plus one more game. “When we got down two games right from the start, then turned it around, I knew these girls had some toughness in them.”

Against Bishop Kenny, Ridgeview opened up with a full arsenal at the net led by junior Haley Robinson’s match leading 18 kill shots, but it was astounding backline defense, led by senior libero Kasey Casiple’s 31 digs of the Bishop Kenny haymakers coming over the net that Henry foreshadowed in preseason talk.

“I knew we were losing a very good front three or four hitters from last year’s team and that our defensive back line was going to the key to our success this year,” said Henry. “We got double digit digs from three girls; Makenna Clark and Brianna Adams with 14 and 16 and Kasey was all over the court with her 30. They kept the ball in play and that gets into the heads of the hitters on the other side.”

With wins in the first two games, Ridgeview looked to be on cruise control in game three and Bishop Kenny’s own championship spine enflamed like Godzilla’s dorsal spikes as the Lady Crusaders rocked the next two games with 25-17 and 30-28 scores to set up the dramatic fifth game.

“I just calmly reminded them that if they wanted to be considered one of the powers of Florida, this was their time,” said Henry. “I really enjoyed their interaction with each other as the game unfolded.

Ridgeview won the decider 15-9.

Over at Middleburg, Bartram Trail’s strong front presence blasted to back-to-back 25-20 wins to keep the Lady Broncos at bay, but noone told junior fireball hitter Connor Rahn to ease up as she ramped her attack like an A-10 Warthog Gatling Gun with 26 kills on the night to power the Broncos revival with scores of 27-25 and 25-23 in games three and four. Brooke Forkum added 12 kills in support of Rahn with a team leading 27 digs on defense. Prewitt also got double digits digs from multiple players; Rahn, Morgan Padgett and Emma Brugh. One interesting stat was just eight errors on 88 serves received from the Bronco backline defenders.

“This team has a lot of fight and as the season has progressed and we have taken our lumps, they have learned how to bounce back,” said Prewitt. “It was one of the best comebacks I’ve been a part of with such a young squad.”

Middleburg would eventually win the final fifth game 15-13 to take the match.