ORANGE PARK – A block at the net from freshman Amoi Willis ignited a 10-4 scoring burst that put the Ridgeview High Lady Panthers volleyball team in control of the fourth game of their region 1-6A …
ORANGE PARK – A block at the net from freshman Amoi Willis ignited a 10-4 scoring burst that put the Ridgeview High Lady Panthers volleyball team in control of the fourth game of their region 1-6A quarterfinal match with Stanton Prep en route to a 25-22 win and a 3-1 match win Wed., Oct. 24 in front of a booming Panthers’ fan section intent on being the seventh player on the court.
“It’s energizing to have the gym going crazy for us,” said libero Ashlyn Halford, who reversed a subpar performance by her defensive back line of Sarah Anderson, Mikinna Busch and Mackenzie Sutton, that seemed unable to combat the scoring strikes of Stanton middle hitter Hannah Roseblum.
“We kind of lulled in that first game and were getting out of position for her shot, but we regrouped after that game and started moving together to catch her,” said Halford. “That helped, Saige (outside hitter Saige Rivers) and Devinn (middle blocker Devinn Nickson) starting getting hot. The crowd was loud too.”
Stanton, who came in at 18-4, 4-1 in district 5-6A won by Bishop Kenny, took control of the first game to win in a blowout, 25-13.
“We need to not give Bishop Kenny that first game if we think we can get to the region final,” said Ridgeview coach Destiny Brightman, who had lost a 3-0 match to Stanton during the regular season. “This is the fourth year that we’ve made the semifinal with them. Maybe four times is the charm.”
Bishop Kenny, 17-11 overall, is led by 5’-7” middle hitter Josephine Morrill’s 235 scoring kills who beat Baker County 3-0 in their region opener. The Lady Crusaders lost in the Class 6A semifinal last year to eventual champions Ponte Vedra.
In game one against Stanton, Ridgeview stalled at 13 points as Rosenblum controlled the net in front of Rivers and Kaelye Kellar for the Panthers.
In game two, Stanton slid to a 19-14 edge after an 11 tie, but Willis started exacting her jumping ability at the net to push the Panthers to a 21-21 tie.
Both teams battled through ties to 23-23 before Rivers landed a thunderous scoring blow in front of a misdirected tap from Nickson for the gamewinner.
Game three went the same scenario with both teams exchanging blows to a 10-10 score with Stanton again pulling away to an 18-14 edge before Brightman called a time out to regroup.
“We sometimes need to remember that basics are our foundation because we don’t have much size,” said Brightman. “I told them to take a deep breath and defend their gym.”
With Kellar finding the hot striker and Rivers neutralizing Rosenblum with consecutive blocks above the net Ridgeview surged to a 20-18 lead before Stanton tied at 20-20 to set up another final five showdown.
From here, Aubry Brown emerged into the attack picture from her outside hitter spot and finished off the game behind a massive block from Nickson to thwart any comeback thoughts of the appropriately name Blue Devils.
In the final game, Ridgeview rocketed to an 18-14 lead behind Brown’s strikes and double teams from Kellar and Rivers on Stanton’s front attack.
Kellar kept pressuring her strikes on the Stanton defense and the crafty senior was finding ways to get her shots off the Stanton blocks and out of bounds for a 22-18 lead after a well place corner scoring shot behind the Stanton defense.
“They were inching closer to the net to get our shots faster, but that one looped over and hooked into the corner to stay in,” said Kellar. “We needed a bounce to end the game.”
A near catastrophic series of net errors got Stanton back to 24-24 with a shot to reverse the Panther momentum, but a quick set and kill to Willis extinguished the thought and ended the match.