Sunset’s boys’ volleyball team knew it would have to trek the toughest possible path Tuesday if it wanted to repeat as GMAC champions.
The Knights proved themselves worthy again of being regarded state title contenders by defeating three of the county’s best — Columbus, Palmetto and Southwest — to win their first county championship since 2007.
Sunset (22-2) capped the performance by surviving a hard-fought 25-22, 21-25, 15-11 match against Southwest in the final match.
Juan De La Hoz led the Knights with 13 kills, 12 digs and three aces. Alex Lazo and Junior Franklin each had six kills. Setter Everett La France had 27 assists.
“As the season has gone on, the kids have gotten more comfortable with each other on the court,” Sunset coach Camilo Gaitan said. “I’m very happy overall with our execution. We just have to get over the speed bumps teams face on the road to state.”
Sunset, last season’s state runner-up, is attempting to win its first state championship. The Knights have already defeated Orlando Bishop Moore to win the Smoothie King Invitational in March in what was a rematch of last year’s state final.
Sunset added three more impressive wins Tuesday.
The Eagles (19-5), who beat Miami Springs and Coral Reef to get to the final, were led by a strong effort from junior Ricky Reguera, who had several kills. Reguera helped Southwest force a decisive third set. But after pulling within a point at 8-7, De La Hoz helped the Knights pull away. Jose Morales had the match-clinching block.
Sunset also managed without libero Matt Kanakis, who injured his back this week in practice. Backup Zach Fernandez filled in and played well on the back row.
Sunset, which surpassed 400 wins for its program Monday, beat Columbus 25-18, 32-30 in the quarterfinals and beat Palmetto 25-18, 25-23 in the semifinals.
“I’m extremely proud of the hard work these guys have put in,” Gaitan said. “It’s been a long time since we won this tournament so it’s a welcome victory.”
GMAC quarterfinal — Palmetto d. Varela, 25-18, 25-23: Kory Schulz 7 kills, 9 digs; Devin Decker 6 kills, 6 digs; Tarek Saade 19 assists, 5 kills, 6 digs.