KISSIMMEE -- After watching Westminster Christian win a state championship, Ransom Everglades made Wednesday the most successful day for Miami-Dade County girls’ volleyball in state history.
After dropping the first two games and falling behind in the fourth and fifth games, Ransom continued to find a way to come back and eventually defeat Orlando Lake Highland Prep 20-25, 18-25, 25-14, 25-23, 16-14 to win the Class 4A state championship at Silver Spurs Arena.
The Raiders (30-3) won their first state championship since 1990 and second in school history. Their win coupled with Westminster’s victory in Class 3A gave Dade multiple state champions in the same season for the first time. It was also the county’s first state champions since Sunset in 1995.
“It’s great to make history along with Westminster, and this is a humbling honor,” Ransom coach Roger Peluso said.
The match was tied 29 times and there were 13 lead changes in an intense match in which Ransom continually responded to potential defeat. Libero Tere Bernace had 19 digs, several of which kept rallies alive during the comeback.
“The fifth set is always shorter, and you have to come out strong,” senior Nikki Colonna said. “Those first few points we did that, and our experience helped.”
Ransom, which lost in five games last season to Orlando Bishop Moore in the state semifinals, finished the season on a 25-match winning streak and knocked off a Lake Highland squad that has won five state titles in its history.
“There was no reason to panic, and we learned that from playing here last year,” Sophie Bullard said. “The dimensions on the court are the same as every other match we played, and we just had to play our game.”
Colonna, whose mother, Kirsten Bailey, coached at Ransom during that 1990 championship season, finished with 14 kills and 26 assists. Colonna was part of a balanced attack that continually adjusted to the Highlanders’ talented blocking scheme and turned around a match that several times appeared headed for a Ransom defeat. Bullard had 11 kills, Sydney Bent had 12 and Lisette Tellez had seven as well as 16 digs.
Peluso credited Ransom’s unpredictability and ability to disguise their attacks better to schemes installed this season by first-year assistant coach Mauricio Diaz.
Diaz led the Southwest girls to the state final four in 2005 and guided Southwest’s boys to a pair of state titles during his career.
“We knew we needed to be more complex and dynamic with our athletes this season, and it’s allowed us to be more deceptive with what we do with our offense,” Peluso said.
The Raiders had trouble getting around Lake Highland’s front-row block of Vanessa Freire, Mary Silliman and Shannon McDonough, who combined for 35 kills. Even after winning the third game, Ransom fell behind again at 20-15 in the fourth.
Caroline Sklaver (13 kills, 24 assists) had three big points to tie the game at 23. The Raiders then set Bullard for two pinpoint kills to take the fourth game.
In the fifth, Ransom led 10-6 before two net violations led to a 6-1 Lake Highland surge to take a 12-11 lead. Sklaver, Bullard and Colonna each scored key points to bring Ransom even at 14 and eventually win the title.
“Being on the team for five years, I would have never dreamed this would be the way it would end,” Colonna said. “Going out like this means everything.”