Five teams from Broward and Miami-Dade counties have met difficult challenges and made it to the volleyball state final four this week in Kissimmee.
Sticking around for more than a day, however, could be even tougher.
Ransom Everglades (4A), making its first trip to state since 1994, will have to knock off an undefeated team that is ranked No. 1 in the state, regardless of class.
Westminster Christian (3A) will face a team that has won four state titles in a row.
Coral Reef (8A) is making its first trip to state, and websites are predicting a quick exit for the school that opened in 1997 and has little big-match experience.
St. Thomas Aquinas (7A) and Sheridan Hills Christian (2A), which like Westminster lost in the 2011 state semifinals, will have challenges.
Here’s a look at the five South Florida teams competing for titles this week at Silver Spurs Arena:
• Friday at 4 p.m., Ransom (28-2) will face Orlando’s Bishop Moore (30-0), which is led by Virginia Tech recruit Lindsey Owens. Bishop Moore is ranked No. 1 in the state regardless of class.
Roger Peluso, Ransom’s coach since 2000, finally made it to state in his 13th year running the program.
“This feels really good,” Peluso said after beating Chaminade to get to state. “The girls believed in our tactics. In sports, it’s hard to get kids to buy in, and they want to challenge you. But for some reason, this time they didn’t challenge us, and they listened.”
Peluso said he credited his school for building a middle school gym five years ago, when the current seniors were in the seventh grade.
“When we built that gym, the kids got interested in volleyball,” he said. “We added teams and coaches. It changed the whole way kids came through the program.”
Ransom has won 19 matches in a row, and its only loss to a Florida school was against Westminster Christian, a defeat the Raiders later avenged.
Chaminade coach Jason Johnson said Ransom is a “solid” team.
“They have a lot of experience, and they are real big up front,” Johnson said. “They make you rethink sometimes as a hitter going up against their block because they get their hands on a lot of balls.”
• Coral Reef (25-5) will play Winter Park (25-5) at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Unranked Coral Reef is the underdog against Winter Park, ranked 10th in the state regardless of class. The teams in the other half of the bracket, Boca Raton and Lake Mary, are ranked fifth and sixth in the state, respectively.
• Aquinas (22-3) will play Lakeland’s George Jenkins (28-3) at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Aquinas, which returns all six starters from last year’s team, is considered the favorite in this matchup but would be the underdog against either Venice or Gainesville Buchholz if it were to reach Wednesday’s state final.
Jenkins, which has never won a state title, is making its first trip to the final four since 1996. Aquinas won state titles in 1995 and 2004.
• Westminster (27-4), the highest-ranked team in Dade or Broward, will face Orlando’s First Academy (20-8), which is seeking its fifth state title in a row, at noon Friday.
Westminster is ranked seventh in the state and has beaten First Academy twice this season. Westminster is also ranked No. 1 in the state among 3A teams.