Panthers back in Elite Eight

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 11/2/22

After a “humbling” district championship effort against rival Middleburg High last week, the Ridgeview High Lady Panthers volleyball team regrouped, retooled and responded with a two-game road …

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Panthers back in Elite Eight

Posted

After a “humbling” district championship effort against rival Middleburg High last week, the Ridgeview High Lady Panthers volleyball team regrouped, retooled and responded with a two-game road trip playoff trek that puts the Panthers one game from a Final Four appearance for a second year in a row.

“The Middleburg game kind of humbled us that we have to bring our A game every time we play,” said Ridgeview coach Steven Henry, who returns from a double travel week of back-to-back 3-1 region 1-5A playoff wins over Pensacola Washington and Tallahassee Lincoln to advance to the region final on Wed., Nov. 3 at Ocala Vanguard. “We tried some new lineups moves against Middleburg and they came with a better game than us and it cost us a district title. This team responded and made it very clear that we are probably the best team in the area at this point.”

Middleburg, with coach Carrie Prewitt announcing her retirement this year after her final year of teaching and coaching, got the best of her girls against Ridgeview, then faced off with what Prewitt characterized as an equal effort against Vanguard.

“Our girls left everthing out there against Ridgeview and then we had to face a good Ocala Vanguard team that ended our season,” said Prewitt, who will leave the Bronco sidelines to enjoy a trip up the Appalachian Trail (see Prewitt story, page ?:). “The program is in good hands with Meredith Forkum taking over. The girls fought hard all season and I can’t be more proud of how the team played all season.”

Middleburg lost a 3-1 decision to Vanguard (15-11) with Vanguard dispatching of top-seed Choctawhatchee 3-0 to advance to face Ridgeview (18-11). Choctawhatchee (23-6) beat Stanton (17-7) in three games to advance.

Against Vanguard, Middleburg gave up the first two games, 25-22 and 25-20 before taking game three 25-19. Vanguard ended the match with a 25-21 final game.

Top scorer for the Broncos was junior Connor Rahn with another 26 Kills night with Brooke Forkum adding just 11. Vanguard’s top hitter, senior Emma Ehmann slammed for 31 kill points to add to her season 230 kills.

Against Washington (16-9), Ridgeview won 3-1 behind 16 kills frtom junior Haley Robinson and 15 from sophomore Katie Cole as gave up the first game, 25-23, then trounced Lincoln with games of 25-13, 25-15, 25-18.

“Lots of travel, homecoming concerns and a little sting from the Middleburg kind of messed up the first game, but we dialed in from there and played our game,” said Henry. “Haley was a menace at the net with seven blocks on top of her offense.”

Against Lincoln, it was Ridgeview taking the early advantage with wins of 25-19 and 25-20 in the first two games before Lincoln got a win in game three, 25-22. Ridgeview won the final game 25-19.

“We had a more balanced attack with three girls in double figures at the net (Robinson 16 Kills, Makenna Clark 14 Kills and Katie Cole 11 Kills),” said Henry. “Our libero Kasey Casiple made dig after dig (33) to save volleys, but Makenna was on the floor alot for her 28 digs. Against Vanguard, with their bigger hitter, both will be needed to have their best games.”

Note: Against Choctawhatchee, Vanguard limited the Choctawhatchee net offense to just three players with scorin shots; 16, 7, and 5 total in the blowout win (25-11, 25-20, 25-19).

Vanguard’s history is long and storied back to 1979 with 11 Final Four appearances with state titles in 2012, 2013 and 2018 and runnerup finishes in 2014, 2016 and 2019.

Last year, Vanguard made it to the Final Four only to lost to Mosley High in the Class 5A state semifinal while Ridgeview lost to Mosley in the region final. Vanguard was in region 2-5A last year.

Ridgeview has never played in a Final Four despite seven straight district titles; minus last week’s loss to Middleburg with the Panthers making five region semifinals before Henry got the team to the region final last year.

In region 1-2A, St. Johns Country Day School lost a 3-0 semifinal to Christ’s Church Academy for their third loss to Christ’s Church of their 19-6 season record. Christ’s Church, the second seed, improved to 18-5 and advances to play top seed Oak Hall (24-4) on Tues., Nov. 1.

In region 1-4A, Keystone Heights (17-8), the sixth seed, lost 3-0 to third seed South Walton 3-0 in the region quarterfinal. South Walton later advanced with a win over Bolles, 3-2, to get to the region final against top seed Bishop Kenny on Tues., Nov. 1.

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