Ransom Everglades libero Tere Bernace said her team was a bit intimidated before taking the court for Saturday’s Smoothie King girls’ volleyball final against Westminster Christian.
“We didn’t want to admit it, but we came in scared because they’re a really great team,” said Bernace, a 5-7 junior. “The last time we played them, we got killed.”
That’s not at all what happened on Saturday, when host Ransom delivered a 25-23, 25-15 victory to its small — but very loud — rooting section.
Ransom (23-2) closed strong in both sets. In game one, Westminster led 22-21 before Ransom won four of the final five points. In game two, Ransom closed out the match with nine consecutive points. Eight of those last nine points were served by Bernace, including three aces.
That was a far different result from the Raiders’ earlier meeting this season, when Westminster (17-3) routed Ransom 25-8, 25-12 at the Berkeley Premier tournament in Tampa.
Raiders coach Roger Peluso said he made some adjustments to his lineup this time around, and one of them involved moving Bernace to libero, where she led the defense from the center of the back row.
Bernace responded by being named tournament MVP. She had a team-high 45 digs and had an ace on match point.
“I had won MVP once before but never in a tournament this big,” Bernace said of the 16-team Smoothie King. “MVP usually goes to a big hitter, so I was surprised and happy.”
Besides Bernace, Ransom had three other girls on the all-tournament team: Nikki Colonna, Lisette Tellez and Kathryn Trinka (team-high 46 kills).
Peluso said his strategy was to serve away from Westminster standouts Sylvia Hernandez and Susie Forbes. Both players made all-tournament, along with teammate Jenny Ceballos. Peluso said he was especially wary of Hernandez, who is one of the top five players in the state.
“You don’t let her touch the ball,” he said. “If we could find a way to slow her down — because our block is pretty tall — we had a chance. In Tampa, Sylvia went through our block, around our block. … She had her way with us.”
Overall, the fifth annual Smoothie King tournament, which featured seven teams from Miami-Dade County, five from Broward and four from the Fort Myers area, followed close to form as the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals.
In one semifinal, Westminster fought off one game point in the first set to defeat Fort Myers’ Evangelical Christian, 26-24, 25-21.
Westminster has beaten Evangelical in four consecutive regular-season matches but lost the one that counted the most in the 2011 state semifinals. The teams could meet again this year if they were to play for the Class 3A state final.
In the other semifinal, Ransom defeated Chaminade, 25-11, 13-25, 15-12, in a potential preview of a Class 4A regional final. .
Chaminade (20-3) finished fourth in the tournament after losing to Evangelical. Making all-tournament for Chaminade were Alyssa Osborn and Emily O’Neil.