Rams advance to Final Four

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 23, 2003

AHOSKIE – It wasn’t from perspiration, nor had he just taken a bath, but yet Dave Rowzie stood dripping wet from head to toe here Tuesday afternoon.

The moisture culprit in this case turned out to be a drenching from his own soccer players at Ridgecroft School. They had doused their coach with the water cooler just moments after the Rams sealed their invitation to this weekend’s NCISAA Final Four with a 3-2 win over Gaston Day School in the state quarterfinal round.

With the victory, Ridgecroft, seeded fourth in the 12-team NCISAA state tournament field, moves into Saturday’s Final Four round in Greenville, S.C. There, the Rams (9-7-2 overall) will face top-seeded Greenfield School in a 1 p.m semifinal matchup. That victor advances to the state championship game against the winner of the other semifinal match between #2 Faith Christian and third-seeded Waccamaw Academy.

&uot;We’re absolutely thrilled to make the Final Four,&uot; said Rowzie, still dripping wet from the post-game celebratory drenching. &uot;I’m so happy for the kids, just as I am for their parents, our school and the entire Ridgecroft family.&uot;

He continued, &uot;To my knowledge, this is a first for Ridgecroft’s varsity boys. We’ve never made it this deep in the state tournament.&uot;

But to make it this deep, the Rams had to first work their way past a strong Gaston Day squad, seeded fifth, that was fresh off an 8-0 rout of Victory Christian during last Friday’s tournament opener (the Rams had a first round bye).

Fortunately, Rowzie’s Rams were up to the challenge, getting first half goals from junior Harrison Revelle and senior Jason Courtright to take a 2-0 lead at intermission. As things turned out, junior Hill Homewood’s goal early in the second half proved to be the game-winner as Gaston Day rallied for a pair of late goals to make things interesting down the stretch.

&uot;Getting the lead was vital, not only as a confidence booster, but as a safety net as well,&uot; noted Rowzie. &uot;We had a few defensive lapses there in the second half and Gaston Day capitalized, but we were able to hang on and weather the storm.&uot;

That defense was superb in the early going, especially that of goalkeeper Ian Kinlaw. In one short stretch of the first half, Kinlaw made three straight saves, including skying for a high, arching shot that he managed to flick away over the top of the net.

&uot;These kids have a lot of confidence in themselves,&uot; stressed Rowzie. &uot;It’s just been the past month that they’ve found that confidence. When things came together for us, they came together in a big hurry.&uot;

It wasn’t that way in the early part of the season. There, facing a year without their top scorer from last season – Tyler Jones, who transferred to Greenfield – and with another key performer – Wes Ward – sidelined for the year with a knee injury, the Rams struggled. Ridgecroft started 0-4-1 inside the Coastal Plains Independent Conference wars, but rallied to win three of their final five matches (they tied another).

&uot;This is the time of the season that a coach wants to see his team performing at their very best,&uot; concluded Rowzie. &uot;We will not just show up at the Final Four and just be happy to be there. We will not be intimidated against Greenfield. Just put the ball down on the field and we’ll be ready to play.&uot;