LYNN HAVEN - The Ridgeview High Lady Panthers got their initial wish in a region final berth for a program that had six straight district titles under head coach Destiny Brightman, but could not get …
LYNN HAVEN - The Ridgeview High Lady Panthers got their initial wish in a region final berth for a program that had six straight district titles under head coach Destiny Brightman, but could not get past the region semifinals.
For first year coach Stephen Henry, the long time assistant under Brightman, now athletic director at Orange Park High, who infused a new “energy” as he called it that carried the Panthers to a seventh district title and two playoff region wins; Panama City Arnold, then Choctawhatchee, then a region final berth against top seed Mosley High of Lynn Haven.
A possible fourth game against county rival Middleburg was upended by Mosley, who beat the Lady Broncos in the opposite region semifinal.
In region 1-2A, St. Johns Country Day School won game one against Harvest Community, but fell in the next three games to end their season in the region semifinal.
For Panther coach Stephen Henry, the Ridgeview season was a bit of an early learning curve.
“From day one, I knew we were going to make it past districts with the pedigree of this team, how could we not?,” said Henry. “After the tough schedule we went through and the battle we put up against Leon, Santa Fe and Ponte Vedra, I knew we had someting special. The scores of those games didn’t always reflect the battle, but we grew with every tough game we played.”
Ridgeview returned to Orange Park after losing 3-1 Saturday afternoon in the region final against Mosley with Henry intent on keeping the throttle at full tilt after few days of easy breathing.
“The long drive home, my brain was already thinking of ways to improve for next year,” said Henry. “This year, I wasn’t really sure what to expect being head of a program, but now the picture is much clearer.”
In the run to the region final, Ridgeview beat Arnold, 25-13, 25-13, 25-12 in dominant fashion led by senior Elaina Reynolds up front with 12 scoring kills and senior London Francis adding eight.
One of the keys to the Panthers dominance above the net has been the blocking prowess of sophomore Haley Robinson who rejected six Arnold scoring attempts to swing momentum to Ridgeview.
Against Choctowhatchee, in the region semifinal, Ridgeview won 25-17, 25-10, and 25-21 with Reynolds pounding 18 kills and senior Teeya Desgoutte adding 10. Robinson and Zoe Whaley both had four blocks.
With Reynolds yielding the hot hand of scoring, it was the Panthers opening with a 27-25 first game win and a possible upset in the making. Reynolds, with Ridgeview up 24-20, misfired on three shots at the net before Desgoutte made a spectacular diving stab of a Mosley shot as Mosley tied the game at 24-24. A miss by Reynolds gave Mosley a one point lead by Desgoutte tipped for a tying score and Robinson stuffed a net shot before Reynolds answered with a thunderous kill deep behind the Mosley defense.
In game two, untimely errors gave Mosley a quick 20-13 lead before Kasey Casiple got a diving save and Francis smashed down a Mosley kill attempt to cut the lead to 15-20.
Desgoutte with spectacular defensive save deep in Ridgeview’s defense and a Robinson block got the score to 17-20 with Reynolds doing double duty with a quick return her side hitting position after a diving stab struck a blast to the floor to score the game at 18-20 as Ridgeview fought to stay close.
Two net violations doomed the Panther momentum as Mosley pulled out a 25-19 win.
Game three saw a series of long, competitive volleys as both teams refused to wilt on incoming shots over the net with a Robinson block scoring the game 17-20 late in the contest.
Desgoutte continued to dial up spectacular plays as Ridgeview inched to within 20-22 before falling 20-25.
Game three went the same route with the Panthers fighting to stay within a field goal for most of the game and Desgoutte pushing the team to a 20-22 gap before Mosley pulled out the 20-25 win.
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