The North Fort Myers Red Knights counted on its "Big 3" once again Tuesday night, and they did not disappoint.
The senior trio of Susie McKeever, Miranda Ashby and Jessica Wagner carried the Knights to a 25-17, 25-9, 25-14 demolition of the Estero Wildcats in the Region 5A-4 quarterfinals in just over 60 minutes.
The Knights (19-4) host the regional semifinal match Tuesday against Naples Lely, which outlasted Lemon Bay 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 25-11 in another quarterfinal Tuesday.
Wagner, the 6-foot-2 workhorse in the middle of the front row drilled 17 kills and served up four of the team's 14 aces. Ashby, the outside hitter, added nine kills and nine digs while McKeever, the setter, handed out 30 assists to go with nine digs.
Junior Heather Getman added four aces and eight digs while senior Kelly Dry delivered seven kills and sophomore Amanda Anzalone wound up with four aces and 10 digs.
"Our serve and serve receive was good tonight," said Knights coach Jeremy Ridgeo. "We controlled the game with our serves and didn't make a lot of passing errors."
In fact, the Knights were nearly flawless at handling the ball on their side of the net all night.
After gaining a 3-2 advantage in the opening game, the Knights built a comfortable lead and coasted to the win with 11 kills and two aces in the first game.
The middle game was even better, taking control at 4-3 and racing to leads of 13-4 and 18-7. It was only fitting that Wagner deliver the last two kills in succession. She had five of nine kills in the game.
The Knights never trailed in the third game, opening with a 4-0 lead and 8-2. The Wildcats (14-10) never got closer than 12-9 as Ashby delivered three of her kills en route to a 15-9 advantage. Once again, Wagner killed two of the last three points and threw in two stuff blocks in the Knights' next-to-last service.
"I thought we looked a bit lazy at the beginning, but our serve points hid that a little," said Ridgeo. "We played well, don't get me wrong, but we are capable of playing with more energy on the court."
After breaking new ground last week with their first volleyball district championship in 14 years, the Knights won their first regional match in a very long time, certainly in the five years Ridgeo has been in charge.
"I knew Ashby, McKeever and Wagner would break through some time," said Ridgeo. "They put in the extra work in practice and played club volleyball. This is very special to do this in their last year."
In Region 3A-3 action Tuesday, Evangelical Christian advanced with a 25-12, 25-11, 25-12 victory over West Palm Beach King's Academy. ECS will host the regional semifinal Tuesday against Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin, which advanced past Seacrest 25-23, 26-24, 19-25, 25-21.
District 6 Tournament: Island Coast claimed the boys' district title by less than 100 pins over Ida Baker Tuesday at Pin Street Lanes. Both teams advance to next week's state finals in Orlando.
Steven Brewer of North Fort Myers and Darren Hower of Mariner advance individually.
Island Coast also won the girls' district title by a similar margin over South Fort Myers. Both advance to the state finals along with Brittany Kawa and Cyd Galang of Cape Coral.
North Fort Myers 8, East Lee County 0: After waiting more than an hour for East Lee County to arrive at Moody Field Tuesday night, the Red Knights sent them home at halftime smarting from a season-opening shutout defeat.
Junior Melinda Lukas scored three goals - the 49th, 50th and 51st of her two-plus varsity years - to lead the Knights. Five teammates each added one goal, including Casey Gentile, Hannah Hamilton, Darian Leschewski, Rebecca Watson and Taylor Pascale. Megan Richards made two assists.
The Knights outshot the Jaguars 20-0.
"With the delay, the girls were glad to finally start playing," said Knights coach Donna Agostinelli. "The jamboree really warmed us up nice with two wins and two ties, but we haven't settled in yet. We're waiting on players from cross country, volleyball and bowling to finish their seasons. In fact, four cheerleaders have called wanting to try out."
North hosts Cape Coral on Thursday.