The North Fort Myers Red Knights have not been past the first round of regional volleyball play in a very long time.
They accomplished that feat Tuesday night with a 25-17, 25-9, 25-14 demolition of the Estero Wildcats in the Region 5A-4 quarterfinals. It took them little more than 60 minutes.
"This is a new experience for them," said Knights coach Jeremy Ridgeo. "It's nice for our Big 3 to be recognized throughout this building. I'm proud of them and they are enjoying it and are very happy."
The Big 3 are seniors Susie McKeever, Miranda Ashby and Jessica Wagner.
Wagner led the way Tuesday with 17 kills and four of the team's 14 service aces. Ashby contributed nine kills and nine digs while McKeever 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.
The Knights have improved each of the past three seasons, from 12-11 to 13-12 and to 19-4 this season adding their first district championship in 14 years to go with their first regional win in recent memory.
"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."
The Knights were nearly flawless at handling the ball on their side of the net all night.
"Our serve and serve receive was good tonight," said Ridgeo. "We controlled the game with our serves and didn't make a lot of passing errors."
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.
"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."
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.
The Red Knights (19-4) host the regional semifinal match Tuesday against Naples Lely, which advanced with a 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 25-11 victory over Lemon Bay Tuesday.
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 with 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."