There was little drama but still plenty of excitement on Saturday afternoon in the Coral Reef gym.
A heavy favorite to dispatch Ronald Reagan in the Region 4-8A girls volleyball final, the host Barracudas of Coral Reef delivered as promised with a straight-sets 25-14, 25-11, 25-11 victory over the Bison.
And with it came the excitement of a midcourt celebration as the Coral Reef whooped it up over a first trip to the state final four, where it will take on Winter Park in a Class 8A semifinal on Tuesday at Silver Spurs arena in Kissimmee.
“This is so exciting I can hardly contain myself right now,” said Coral Reef 6-1 senior Baylee Waterman, who helped lead the Barracudas attack with nine kills, two digs and one block. “We have four senior starters and knew this was our last chance to get there. It’s something we’ve worked so hard for and now to be going … it’s just unbelievable.”
Also going will be Coral Reef head coach Yasmin Ortiz. It was 22 years ago, as a junior in high school, that Ortiz helped lead Coral Springs Taravella to a state volleyball championship and wanted her girls to enjoy the same ride as well.
“It’s been my goal since I took over this program five years ago to get this team to state because it was such a wonderful experience for me when I did it,” said Ortiz. “I’m so happy for the girls, because I know how much sacrifice and work there has been to get this thing done.”
Coral Reef (25-5) will be looking to break a nine-year trend in which the large school classification from Miami-Dade County has dropped its state semifinal. The last team to make it to a state title game was Braddock in 2002.
Reagan (14-7) — which finished up its most successful season in program history, having never advanced past the regional quarterfinals — stunned Coral Reef by taking a 7-2 lead in the first set.
They led 13-11 when the Barracudas, with a huge front line led by Waterman and 6-3 Erika Hyman (five kills, block) settled down and took control, going on a 14-1 run to close out the set and never looked back.
• Region 4-3A final — Westminster Christian d. Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian, 25-17, 25-20, 25-13: Westminster Christian lost in four sets to Evangelical Christian in the state semifinal last year, an outcome that left the team not only upset, but also itching for a second chance.
The Warriors swept Calvary Christian on Saturday afternoon in the Class 4-3A regional final to return to the state tournament with all but two returning from last season’s squad.
“It’s great,” said junior outsider hitter Sylvia Hernandez, who finished with three aces, 16 kills and 15 digs. “We worked really hard this season and that was one of our goals. We’re really happy to be back. Losing last year was a big wake-up call, so I think we’re going to come out really strong. We’ve worked really hard so that won’t happen again.”
During the first set with the score 14-13, Westminster Christian took 11 of the next 15 points to close out the game. In a 19-18 second set, the Warriors went on a 6-2 run. In the final set, Westminster Christian led by double digits throughout.
Junior libero Susie Forbes notched two aces and a team-high 22 digs. Junior Jenny Ceballos posted two aces, seven kills, 10 digs, while junior setter Kelsey Taylor tallied two aces, eight digs and a team-high 23 assists.
The Warriors (27-4) will face Orlando First Academy, which has won four state titles in a row, Friday in Kissimmee.
“They just seem to gel well and they’re on a mission to get back to state,” Westminster Christian coach Julie Doan Kurenuma said. “We’ll see what happens from here on out.”
CHRISTINA DE NICOLA
• Region 4-2A final — Sheridan Hills Christian d. Westwood Christian 25-16, 25-13, 10-25, 25-14: The Sharks (14-7) are going back to the state volleyball semifinals thanks to a Region 4-2A final victory over the Warriors (19-4) Saturday night at Westwood Christian.
With Sheridan Hills having lost its momentum in the opponent’s gym after dropping a third set the Warriors dominated, it seemed like Westwood was poised to come back, but it never materialized.
The Warriors were led by Liz Jenkins (21 digs, 14 kills) and Leanne Tejada (28 assists).