Yasmin Ortiz has seen her Coral Reef girls’ volleyball team make its way back to contender status in Miami-Dade County over the past four years.
This is the season the Barracudas are hoping to make the jump to the top.
Coral Reef (20-5) took a big step Tuesday night by winning its first GMAC championship on its home floor with a closely contested 25-23, 25-22 victory against Palmetto.
The Barracudas, who split two meetings with the Panthers in the regular season, avenged a loss in last year’s GMAC final. Palmetto had won the previous two county titles and three of the previous four.
“It’s taken four years of hard work and commitment to get to this point,” Ortiz said. “We had to build a culture of loving the game and really dedicating themselves to getting better. These kids, a lot of them, have advanced placement courses and tough academic schedules. But they have a passion for the game.”
Coral Reef also defeated District 15-8A leader Ferguson in the semifinals 26-24, 25-20 and District 13-8A leader Hialeah 25-20, 25-12 in the quarterfinals. Palmetto defeated District 14-8A leader Miami Beach in the semifinals and Westland Hialeah in the quarterfinals.
Ortiz said the Barracudas, who will enter next week’s District 16-8A tournament as the No.2 seed because of a recent loss to Palmetto, have been fueled by that setback in recent matches.
“We were cruising through every opponent through three sets, and I think we were getting a little comfortable,” Ortiz said. “We had a hard loss to Palmetto, and I think that taught us that the key for us is what we control on our side of the net. We have to minimize errors and execute to our ability.”
Although the best-of-3 match had several lead changes and ties, Coral Reef responded at crucial moments to sweep the contest.
After building a six-point lead in the first game, Palmetto rallied to tie it at 15. Coral Reef answered with a 5-0 run of its own sparked by sophomore Kristine Rios to eventually take the set.
And after trailing by three points early in the second game, Coral Reef again worked its way back and took the lead for good at 17-16 on the play of senior Daniela Leal.
Rios finished with 15 kills, 24 digs, 17 assists and five aces combined for the three matches of the tournament. Leal posted a combined eight kills, 22 assists and 22 digs. Senior Baylee Waterman had a team-high 23 kills for the tournament.
Barracudas libero Paulina Persson finished with 58 digs in the tournament.
In the other quarterfinals, Ferguson defeated Mourning, and Miami Beach beat Hialeah-Miami Lakes.