A young Rams team sees its season end in the Class 9A state semifinals

SARASOTA

The Riverview High volleyball team had an opportunity to seize the moment early.

When the Rams did not capitalize, they did not receive a second chance.

Oviedo would not let them.

The Lions overcame a slow start and gained momentum as the match progressed in a 3-0 victory over Riverview, 25-22, 25-14, 25-15, in the Class 9A state semifinals on Saturday afternoon at the RHS Gymnasium.

Ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 12 in the country by MaxPreps, the Lions (27-4) will play for the 9A state title against Palm Beach Gardens, a 3-0 winner over Miami Southwest, 4 p.m. Friday at Suncoast Credit Union Arena on the campus of Florida SouthWestern State University in Fort Myers.

Ranked 17th in the state, the Rams (23-7) broke a 2-2 tie with five straight points to take a 7-2 lead in the first set.

“You always want to try to win the first one because it gives you momentum for the rest of the match,” Riverview coach Nickie Halbert said. “We should have been able to pull it out. They’re the No. 1 team in the state for a reason.”

Instead, the Lions roared back, getting even at 12. With the set tied at 22, Oviedo scored the final three points.

“Seeing Riverview’s warmup and knowing what they were bringing to the table, they were just a little bit back on their heels,” Oviedo coach Jen Darty said. “It was a lot of our errors early on. We talked about cleaning that up on our side of the net. Once we did that, we stayed in control.”

The Lions got their main hitters going in the second set, snapping a 2-2 tie and never looking back.

“We knew there were a couple of hitters we were going to have to try to shut down,” Halbert said. “We didn’t do the best job at doing that.”

The third set was much of the same, as Oviedo used a seven-point spurt to expand a 9-6 lead to a double-digit advantage.

“We really didn’t make them too uncomfortable,” Halbert said. “We made it pretty easy for them to score.”

Riverview’s lone senior, Abby Quigley, notched three straight kills at the end of the third set as the home team pulled to within eight. It was only the third time in the match the Rams had consecutive kills for points.

“We just couldn’t get going on offense,” Halbert said. “The entire game we struggled with producing a lot of kills back-to-back.”

Ella Pfeil led Riverview with 11 kills. Quigley added nine kills and four blocks. Madison Binkley also finished with nine kills. Carlye Perrigo dished off 31 assists. Riah Walker notched 19 digs.

“I’m so proud of Abby,” Halbert said. “She has been phenomenal for Riverview the past four years.”

With Quigley the lone senior, the future appears bright for the Rams. That was the focus in the post-match chat.

“I don’t want to say this loss is going to define the season. This is the note we are ending on,” Halbert said. “I’m so proud of them. Everything that was said in that locker room was positive and full of hope for years to come because we are so young. At the beginning of the season it was the reason we couldn’t finish games.

“We played a lot of really tough teams this season. I’m so proud we were able to make it this far.”