The third-seeded Lady Knights (38-10) will play Wednesday against the winner of Saturday night’s other quarterfinal between Marist and Locust Grove. If Marist, the No. 2 seed, wins, River Ridge would be on the road. Should No. 7 Locust Grove win, the Lady Knights would be the host.
From the first serve of Saturday’s match, it was evident that River Ridge was the better team. Katie Tyler served the first six points of the set, which included four aces. From there, Jess Mlaska and Olivia Stasevich went to work picking up kills. Cornista Angel also served for a pair of aces in the first set.
The second set started in similar fashion, with the Lady Knights jumping to a 7-0 lead behind the solid serving of Stasevich. Molly Herring and Brittany Castro added kills along the way.
Walnut Grove’s Zee Scott, however, broke the Lady Knights’ momentum with a kill of her own as the Lady Warriors came back to within three at 7-4.
River Ridge went on another run, pushing the score to 14-6. Mlaska contributed another kill and a block along the way. Walnut Grove closed the gap again to as few as three at 20-17 before Megan Connelly closed out the set serving for the Lady Knights.
Connelly was responsible for the final five serves of the set, including a pair of aces. Castro and Mlaska each added a kill down the stretch.
After a 10-minute break, the Lady Knights returned to the court for the third set and quickly completed the sweep.
Although the Lady Warriors led early at 3-1, it didn’t last. An ace by Connelly made the score 9-4 before Mlaska drove home kills for three of the next four points. Stasvich also got in on the offense with a pair of kills, while Herring hammered the ball down for the final point in the 25-13 win.
River Ridge coach Jeff Kirk liked the intensity his players showed.
“The girls did a great job (Saturday) of staying focused,” he said. “We had a few mistakes, but we are going to try to fix those before we play (Wednesday).”
Mlaska, who had eight kills in the third set alone, finished with 14 on the day. Tyler led the team with 37 assists, while Dakota Williams added 33. Ashley Casey had five digs, all in the third set. Stasevich led the team with 13 digs, while Connelly added 12. Sophie O’Hare led the team with three blocks.
Many of the students who typically cheer on the River Ridge football team came out for the late-morning match and kept the gym loud the entire time. Kirk said it’s good for the volleyball players to get that kind of support from other students.
“It was a great crowd,” Kirk said. “We are going to enjoy this right now and then start working again on Monday.”