Water polo | Season preview

Raiders know the bar is set high

 

Ransom Everglades’ girls, seeking their fifth title in a row, are prepared to adapt to a younger roster.

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DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS

Boys Gulliver Prep

Girls Ransom Everglades

KEY DATES

March 1-2 Wildcat Invitational

March 8-9 St. Andrews Invitational

March 15-16 Gulliver Invitational

April 5-6 Ransom Everglades Invitational

April 8-11 GMAC championships

April 15-20 Districts

April 23State play-ins

April 26-27 State tournament at Ransom

TOP RETURNERS — BOYS

Jonathan Chow Gulliver, Jr.

Jake Guso Belen, Sr.

Harry Tafur Ransom, Jr.

Herzen Cortez Belen, Jr.

Matthew Friedland Gulliver, Sr.

Bryan Garcia Miami High, So.

Carlos Mendez Southwest, Sr.

Ryan Guso Belen, So.

Giovanni Cragnotti Miami Country Day, Jr.

Enrique Lam Belen, Jr.

TOP RETURNERS — GIRLS

Sophia Carrera-Justiz Ransom, Fr.

Chelsea Johnson Ransom, Jr.

Sophia Rivas Ransom, Jr.

Katja Rocha Gulliver, Sr.

Camila Schafer Gulliver, Jr.

Isa Grandos Gulliver, Sr.

Ana Guerra Coral Reef, Jr.

Alexandra Guerra Gulliver, So.

Carolina Meneses Ransom, Sr.

Mackenzie Bolton Miami Country Day, Sr.

BOYS’ OUTLOOKS

Belen Jesuit: Coach: Jimmy Aguilera, 2nd year. Last season: 16-5. Top players: Jake Guso, Sr.; Herzen Cortez, Sr.; Santiago Nunez, So.; Ryan Guso, So.; Alfredo Ramirez, Sr.; Enrique Lam Sr.

Coral Gables: Coach: Alexander Donis, 4th year. Last season: 5-10. Top players: Andrea Biondi, Sr.; Maxwell Wood, Jr.; Alexander Morales, Sr.; Javier Fernandez, Jr.; Allan Borroto, Sr.; Louis Torres, Jr.

Goleman: Coach: Kathy Webb, 8th year, 48-10-1. Last season: Third at districts. Top players: Andre Arguelles, Sr.; Michael Finn, Jr.; John Rodriguez, Jr.; Luis Rodriguez, So.; Kevin Munoz, Fr.; Carlos Rodriguez, Sr.

Gulliver Prep: Coach: Carroll Vaughan, 5th year. Last season: State champions. Top players: Jonathan Chow, Jr.; Hunter Pelletier, Sr.; Andres Guerra, So.; Alex Guerra, So.; Jan Strusinski, So.; Brett Gilbert, So.

Hialeah: Coach: Bill Harrington, 2nd year. Last season: N/A. Top players: Omar Varela, Sr.; Valentino King, So.; Luis Kalil, Sr.; Carlos Lemus, Sr.; Sabalta Bryant, Sr.

Krop: Coach: Ann Gordon, 12th year. Last season: 10-12. Top players: Mohammah Alsabbaghe, So.; Adam Tzur, Sr.; Daniel Egozi, Jr.; Solomon Sacal, Jr.; Dean Kaire, Jr..

Miami Country Day: Coach Alain Guillen, 1st year. Last season: 8-7. Top players: Giovanni Cragnotti, Sr.; Grant Kushner, Sr.; Talal Bazzi, Sr.; Sebastian Mellado, Fr. ; Issac Kassab, Jr.; Jacob Ziluck, Sr.

Mourning: Coach: Luis Comulada, 3rd year. Last season: 9-6. Top players: Betty Poler, Sr.; Chantal Tepper, Jr.; Andrea Racano, Jr.; Kristin Jackson, Sr.; Mariana Lombello, So.; Nicole Mare, So.

Ransom Everglades: Coach: Eric Lefebvre, 10th year. Last season: 2nd in district. Top players: Harry Tafur, Jr.; Jason Gould, 8th; Martin Montoya Olson, Sr.; Andres Lamas, Sr.; Max Dimitrijevic, Sr.; Carter Shoer, So.

GIRLS’ OUTLOOKS

Coral Gables: Coach: Alexander Donia, 4th year. Last season: 5-12. Top players: Betsy Marichal, Jr.; Melanie Lazaro, Jr.; Danae Diaz, Jr.; Juliette Le Core, Sr.; Alexandra Hollian, Fr.; Dominique Disalvo, So.

Goleman: Coach: Danielson Monreno, 1st year. Last season: 4-8. Top players: Michelle Finn, Jr.; Karen Palacios, Jr.; Melissa Brito, Fr.; Jasmine Gonzalez, So.; Jasmim DelaSierra, Fr.; Laura Figueroa, Sr.

Gulliver Prep: Coach: Carroll Vaughan, 5th year. Last season: 26-2. Top players: Katja Rocha, Sr.; Camila Schafer, Jr.; Alexandra Guerra, So.; Isa Grandos, Sr.; Rebecca Serrano, Jr.; Andrea Guerra, So.

Hialeah: Coach: Bill Harrington, 2nd year. Last season: N/A. Top players: Kelly Ullon, Sr.; Dashley Reyes, Sr.; Emily Alvarez, Jr.; Adis Ocana, Jr.; Katherine Metivier, So.

Krop: Coach: Ann Gordon, 12th year. Last season: 25-3. Top players: Jade Lubie, Jr.; Alana Mantel, Jr.

Miami Country Day: Coach: Alain Guillen, 1st year. Last season: 12-8. Top players: Mackenzie Bolton, Sr.; Emma Rodriguez, Fr.; Medelyn Hertz, Fr.; Sidney Thomas, So.; Nicole Halpryn, Jr.; Beth Lilly, Fr.

Mourning: Coach: Luis Comulada, 3rd year. Last season: 9-6. Top players: Betty Poler, Sr.; Chantal Tepper, Jr.; Andrea Racano, Jr.; Kristin Jackson, Sr.; Mariana Lombello, So.; Nicole Mare, So.

Ransom Everglades: Coach: Eric Lefebvre, 10th year. Last season: State champion. Top players: Chelsea Johnson, Jr.; Sofia Rivas, So.; Sofia Carrera-Justiz, Fr. ; Carolina Meneses, Sr.; Naomi Scharlin, Sr.; Claire McDowell.


Special to The Miami Herald

Winning has become commonplace for the girls on the Ransom Everglades water polo team. The Raiders captured their fourth consecutive state title behind the play of a strong core of talent last season.

In the last half-decade, Ransom has emerged as the dominant force in girls’ water polo after years of struggling to overcome its rivals. The school consistently has been able to fill its rosters with some of the best players in the county and state.

This year’s team is no different.

“Every year we set our goals really high,” Ransom coach Eric Lefebvre said. “Our bull’s-eye is even bigger.”

Led by junior Chelsea Johnson, sophomore Sofia Rivas and freshman Sofia Carrera-Justiz, the Raiders are younger than in previous championship seasons but still have more “big-game” experience than just about anyone.

“We have really strong girls and really good shooters,” Johnson said. “We play to our abilities. It’s looking good.”

Although not being hit particularly hard by graduation, the Raiders will have to adapt to losing super-star goalie Ashleigh Johnson. Ashleigh, Chelsea’s older sister, had been one the most dominant players at her position in recent state history and will be a tough piece to replace.

“Having a freshman goalie come in is going to be a big challenge,” Lefebvre said. “We are going to have to set up a whole new chemistry.”

While dreading having to replace Ashleigh, Lefebvre has been planning for the moment for some time. Last season, Ashleigh split time in goal with Claire McDowell in an effort to better prepare the younger player.

“[McDowell] had more blocks than Ashleigh did because she played in the goal more,” Lefebvre said. “Ashleigh was willing to let her get the feel for it, and hopefully she’ll be ready for it.”

The Raiders will face tough competition once the playoffs start. A number of teams across Florida have legitimate shots at knocking off the defending champions. One of Ransom’s biggest obstacles will come from inside Miami-Dade County. Gulliver Prep, Ransom’s biggest rival, has retooled with a talented squad. Gulliver gave Ransom a tough match in last season’s state quarterfinal, losing 8-7.

“Gulliver has some new kids that have strengthened their team,” Lefebvre said. “We have to be ready to play against them.”

Featuring senior Katja Rocha, junior Camila Schafer and sophomore Alexandra Guerra, Gulliver understands that to be the best in the state, it will need to defeat Ransom in the process.

“Both teams are really good this season,” Schafer said. “I’m excited to play Ransom.”

Boys’ contenders

After losing three key senior, defending state champions Gulliver Prep will have to adapt with a younger team. The Raiders retained a core of experienced starters and also have added a number of freshmen.

“We are going to have a younger, more inexperienced group coming up,” Gulliver coach Carroll Vaughan.

Junior Jonathan Chow, senior Hunter Pelletier and sophomore Andres Guerra make up the Raiders’ three-headed attack that combined for 156 goals last season. The trio has helped the younger players better understand the challenges of the grueling season.

“The younger kids are making leaps,” Vaughan said. “They are playing like a team.”

One of the biggest threats the Raiders will face in trying to repeat as state champions will come from Belen Jesuit. The Wolverines have five seniors on their roster, including Jake Guso and Herzen Cortez.

The pair has been a driving force for the Wolverines’ offense, scoring a combined 165 goals last season. The Wolverines lost two players to graduation and are predicted by some to be the early favorites to win the state title.

“Guso and Herzen have a thorough understanding of the mechanics of the game,” second-year Belen coach Jimmy Aguilera said. “Expectations are high.”

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