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The weather may not have cooperated, but one cancellation could hardly put a damper on the East Ridge boys varsity soccer team’s spirits.

A line of storms pushed through Lake County on the evening of Dec. 17, near the time East Ridge was set to host Poinciana High. But a missed opportunity on the schedule represented a minor blip on an otherwise terrific start to the regular season for the Knights.

Head coach John Quirk’s team won nine of its first 11 matches with the two setbacks – 2-0 to Bishop Moore in the Nov. 11 opener and 3-2 to Class 7A-District 5 counterpart Olympia on Nov. 15 – coming by a combined three goals. East Ridge subsequently constructed an eight-match win streak between Nov. 18 and Dec. 16 that included four shutouts as well as a 10-goal first half against Belleview High.

Seniors Adrian Luyo, Juan Ramos and Randie Hernandez scored two goals apiece as East Ridge needed just 40 minutes to dispatch host Belleview 10-0 on Dec. 16. Senior Josh Hartzfeld was in goal for the Knights’ fifth shutout this season.

East Ridge’s recent string of victories also came against Eustis (8-0), Lake Minneola (3-2 behind Luyo’s two goals), The First Academy-Orlando (8-0 behind hat tricks from senior Sebastian Testa and Ramos), Groveland South Lake (5-2 and 4-2 in a home-and-home series), Orange Belt Conference Tournament champion Harmony (4-2) and Leesburg (8-0).

The Knights had a Dec. 19 rematch with Leesburg, but results were unavailable at press time. East Ridge will then have a travel-friendly schedule in January with home matches against Lake Mary, St. Cloud, Lake Brantley, Tavares, Ocoee and Ridge Community.

The inclement weather affecting the Poinciana-East Ridge boys match held off long enough for the Lady Knights’ girls varsity soccer team to earn its fourth win of the season. Junior captain Cyndie Jackson collected three goals and two assists, Teagan Davis and Emily Horn each scored two goals and goalkeeper Jordyn Davidson recorded the shutout in an 8-0 victory over visiting Leesburg.

East Ridge not only improved to 4-3-2 overall, but head coach Leon Florez also registered his 200th career coaching win. The Lady Knights traveled to Lake Brantley on Dec. 19 – results were unavailable at press time – before opening their 2020 schedule with a match at Longwood Lyman on Jan. 7.

In other varsity soccer news, a pair of Class 5A boys state semifinalists from last season squared off Dec. 16 in Bradenton. Celebration High received a second-half goal from Charly Vargas Bello and Horacio Parisi got the shutout in a 1-0 win over host Lakewood Ranch.

The Storm returned home two days later and posted a 2-0 victory over Lake Minneola, moving their overall record to 6-1-3.

Meanwhile, Celebration’s girls varsity team capitalized on playing nine of its opening 12 matches at home. The Storm, who had a plus-44 goal differential through 12 games, moved to 8-1-3 overall following a scoreless draw with Cornerstone Charter Academy on Dec. 16 and an 8-0 win over visiting Evans High the next day as freshman Sophia Lazari scored three goals and senior Mariana Mattozhino had two goals and one assist.

Ridge Community’s boys varsity team defeated rival Haines City 2-0 on Dec. 17 for its seventh consecutive victory. Kevin Alcala scored a pair of first-half goals for the Bolts, who were scheduled to face Lake Wales (Dec. 19) and Kathleen (Jan. 8) prior to the Polk County Champions League Tournament.

Olivia Nixon assisted on Noemi Casique’s first-half goal and Rena Neal made five saves as Ridge’s girls varsity team blanked Lake Wales 1-0 on Dec. 17. The Lady Bolts improved to 7-2-1 entering a Dec. 19 match against St. Cloud and are scheduled to compete at the Southeastern University Showcase in early January.

In addition, Poinciana’s girls varsity team rallied for a 1-1 draw at Kathleen High on Dec. 16. The Eagles (7-3-1) and Red Devils meet again Jan. 7 at Poinciana.

Holiday basketball update

Haines City High’s Wayne Gandy Holiday Boys Basketball Tournament will run from Dec. 26 through Dec. 28. This year’s eight-team bracket features the host Hornets, Avon Park, Wiregrass Ranch, Orlando University High, Anclote, Sarasota Military Academy, Clearwater and Tennessee-based Union City High.

Quarterfinal games will be played Dec. 26 with Haines City and Sarasota Military Academy tipping off at approximately 7:30 p.m. The seventh-, fifth- and third-place games, as well as the championship final, will be held Dec. 28 starting with the seventh-place contest at 3 p.m.

Head coach Gregory Pritchett’s Hornets sported a 2-5 overall record following a 52-50 loss at Kathleen on Dec. 17.

Elsewhere, the 12th Annual Florida Prospects Girls Basketball Tournament is set for Dec. 26-28 at various locations. Haines City will play in the Silver Division at Dr. Phillips High with DP, Windermere, Strawberry Crest, Sanford Seminole, Deland, Boone and North Miami. The Hornets dropped to 7-4 overall with a 59-35 loss to Windermere High on Dec. 18.

East Ridge is in the Emerald Division at Lake Highland Prep with Lakeland, Oak Ridge, Edgewater, Real Life Academy, All Saints’ Academy, Winter Springs and Boca Ciega.

Poinciana High is a late addition to the 46th Annual Kingdom of the Sun boys basketball tournament in Ocala. The Eagles replaced Illinois-based Lincoln Park High in the 16-team field and will play Coral Springs Charter School in the opening round on Dec. 26.