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Tennis: River Ridge cruises past Ridgewood

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 07:05 PM

Even though River Ridge is aware of long-time rival Ridgewood's record, it wasn't about to give in lightly.

"They gave us a match," Royal Knights coach Brian Hooker said. "We don't take anyone for granted, and the main thing is making sure we're still playing hard no matter who's on the other side of the net."

River Ridge (11-3) defeated the Rams 6-1 Tuesday afternoon, as both team are looking towards Spring Break and the districts in two weeks. However, Ridgewood (1-12) has struggled this season, as many of the players have no prior tennis experience.

First-year coach Jonathan Tharin is having to teach the rules of the game more so than strategy.

"I got my No. 1, who is good, but he doesn't really have anyone to hit with (during practice)," said Tharin, a former tennis player at Palm Harbor, "so it's been a lot of hard work to make sure to teach everyone what they're missing."

The hands-down-most-talented player, Gio Garnado, is just 4-6 this season, including a 7-5, 6-2 to Ridgewood's Sean Perry. River Ridge swept through the rest of the singles: Brian Mills won 6-1, 6-3 over Anthony Fleres, Nick Hill defeated Alex Dziedzic 6-0, 6-0, Chris Christoff topped Tyler Boisvere 6-1, 6-1 and Dylan Taylor beat Dylan Disbro 6-2, 6-2.

The Rams lone point came from the No. 2 doubles as Fleres and Dziedzic topped Cuyler Lutz and Alex Koutsos 8-4, though at No. 1, Mills and Hill defeated Garnado and Biosvere 8-1.

"Most of them haven't played a one-on-one game where its all up to you to win," Tharin said. "Sometimes I have to remind them that most everyone they're playing has been playing much longer."

Though this rivalry isn't what it used to be in past years - Hooker admits that matches with Wiregrass Ranch and Wesley Chapel get pretty heated - Hooker also points out that their top player, Perry, was a sophomore at Ridgewood before transferring.

"These guys are friends - they know each other from the area," Hooker said.

Now, River Ridge will get nearly a week off before hosting the 3A-5 boys districts April 13. Even with the lopsided match, facing Ridgewood keeps the players fresh.

"There was some resistance, so it's not like (Ridgewood) laid down," Hooker said. "They used this to keep themselves sharp (for districts) and though anyone can think they might not be tough with their record, this is a match that keeps you on your toes."

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