KISSIMMEE -- Coral Reef, playing in the state semifinals for the first time in school history, had their season ended Tuesday night but not before they put a scare into a heavily favored opponent.
Winter Park (26-5) defeated Coral Reef, 25-19, 25-10, 25-18, at Silver Spurs Arena, overwhelming the Barracudas (25-6) with their size, speed and skill.
In the first set, Coral Reef led by as many as three points and as late as 18-17 before Winter Park scored seven of the final eight points.
In the third set, Coral Reef led by as many as five points and as late as 17-16 before Winter Park scored nine of the final 11 points.
Im really happy with my team, said Yasmin Ortiz, Coral Reefs fifth-year coach. Going in, I knew we were facing a really solid Winter Park team, with a very good block. I was looking forward to seeing what we could do.
We hung in there and fought all the way through. We made adjustments, and we tried to find a way to score the ball. We did not give up at any time. It was a great season.
Winter Park, ranked 10th in the state regardless of class, will play sixth-ranked Boca Raton in Wednesdays final. Boca Raton beat fifth-ranked Lake Mary in five sets earlier Wednesday.
The Barracudas are not quite in the class of their fellow Final Four teams, but they have come a long way in the past few years.
Ortiz finished 12-10 in each of her first two seasons at the school, but the Cudas have improved every year since, going from 16 wins in 2010 to 21 last season and now 25.
The arrival of sophomore Kristine Rios this season allowed Ortiz to run a 6-2 offense for the first time, with Rios and senior captain Daniela Leal as the setters.
Ortiz mentioned three other seniors as key figures in the teams historic run to the state semifinals: libero Paulina Persson; 6-2 outside hitter Baylee Waterman and 6-3 middle blocker Erika Hyman.
The other starters are juniors Adara Anselmo and Andrea Alespeiti.
None of the Barracudas players have committed to colleges yet, but they are being recruited, Ortiz said.
Leal said her goal when she arrived at Coral Reef was to make it to state.
Its taken us four years to get here, but its amazing, Leal said.
In Tuesdays match, Coral Reef went up against Winter Parks talented front line, including 6-3 junior Christina Ambrose, who has committed to Purdue. Ambrose had a match-high 18 kills against Coral Reef.
Winter Park coach Stephanie Gibson is familiar to local volleyball fans. She coached Sunset to state titles in 1993 and 1995 the last girls volleyball championships for any Miami-Dade County teams.
Gibson has since won three state titles at Winter Park and will go for her sixth championship overall on Wednesday against Boca Raton.
Pace has three of their baseball players signing: Brandon Gomez, outfielder, is heading to FIU; Manny Pazos, catcher, is going to University of Pittsburg; Luis Deville, pitcher, going to Barry University.
• University School 6, Pace 0: Megan OToole and Katie Sadeghi each with a goal and an assist.
Gillian Newman fourth shutout. US 3-1-3.
• Marathon 5, Palmer Trinity 0
• Ferguson 2, Coral Reef 1: Isa Jara and Marcela Ramirez had one goal each.
• Ransom Everglades 8, Archbishop Carroll 0: Jillian Awner 2 goals, 2 assists. Sofia Petros goal, 3 assists. Victoria Sotolongo shutout.