State vollyeball tournament | Class 8A semifinals

Ferguson falls short to Lake Mary in semifinal


Ferguson had a chance to help Miami-Dade County secure three state volleyball titles, but could not advance.

Michelle Cuervo of Ferguson High celebrates after making a point in their match against Coral Reef High, at Coral Reef High, Wednesday, October, 30th, 2013.
Michelle Cuervo of Ferguson High celebrates after making a point in their match against Coral Reef High, at Coral Reef High, Wednesday, October, 30th, 2013.
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald staff

State volleyball

What: Girls’ finals.

When: Through Saturday.

Where: Silver Spurs Arena, 1875 Silver Spur Lane, Kissimmee.

Admission: $9 per session.

Thursday’s schedule

7A semifinals: Naples Gulf Coast def. Lutz Steinbrenner, 25-19, 26-24, 16-25, 24-26, 15-11; Oviedo d. St. Thomas Aquinas 21-25, 25-21, 33-31, 27-25; 8A semifinals: Lake Mary def. Ferguson, 25-18, 20-25, 25-22, 25-12; Winter Park d. Jupiter 25-20, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21; 6A final: Vanguard d. Jensen Beach 25-21, 25-23, 29-27.

Friday’s schedule

2A semifinals: Sheridan Hills Chr. vs. Winter Garden Foundation Academy, 9 a.m.; Naples Seacrest Country Day vs. Winter Park Geneva, 11 a.m.; 1A semifinals: Newberry vs. Sneads, 1; Hilliard vs. Baker, 3; 7A final: Oviedo vs. Gulf Coast, 5; 8A final: Lake Mary vs. Winter Park, 7.

Saturday’s schedule

Class 2A final: 11 a.m.; Class 1A final: 1 p.m.

Special to the Miami Herald

Forgive the exuberance of Ferguson High supporters when word filtered down Wednesday night that Ransom Everglades and Westminster Christian finally had ended Miami-Dade County’s 18-year drought without a state girls’ volleyball crown.

“All our parents were saying, ‘Three in a row, we can do it!’ ” Ferguson coach Greg Shanower said.

Alas, the surge in Miami-Dade pride turned out to be no match for an experienced Lake Mary squad that stymied Ferguson as time went on to win their Class 8A semifinal in four games.

Lake Mary shook off a four-point deficit midway through the third game to grind out a 25-22 win, then blitzed the Falcons 25-12 in the finale.

“It’s a game of momentum and emotions,” Shanower said. “I think we let our momentum get away and our emotions get too high. We didn’t play at an even keel. Going into that fourth game, it took a lot of wind out of our sails.”

Lake Mary, which reached its first state final, advanced to take on Winter Park in a clash of suburban Orlando powers. Ferguson finishes 24-7 in its first trip back to volleyball’s Final Four since 2009.

“This season was an amazing season,” said setter Sophie Serrano, one of just two seniors on the roster. “I’m proud of the season we had, and to get here is a huge accomplishment. Playing in the final would have been amazing, but I’m proud that we got here.”

Freshman hitter Michelle Cuervo led Ferguson with 19 kills and 15 digs. Senior Annika Reczek added 10 kills.

The Falcons were district runners-up to Lourdes Academy, but finally got past their nemesis in the regional semifinals and dispatched West Broward to book their ticket to Silver Spurs Arena.

But they were clearly the underdogs of the 8A draw. Lake Mary’s roster features five seniors and six juniors, Winter Park is nationally ranked and Jupiter’s junior-dominated lineup came to Kissimmee with a 21-2 mark.

At one point, Ferguson’s side of the net featured three freshmen, a sophomore and two juniors.

“We have a lot of young hitters,” Shanower said, “and they started hitting into [Lake Mary’s] blocks. … I don’t think we were really outmatched when it comes to size. But I think one of the things they have that we really don’t is they have a lot of experience.”

What the Falcons may have lacked in experience, they tried to make up for with aggressive play. After dropping the first game 25-18, Shanower challenged his players to not back down.

“I told them after that first game that we didn’t come up here to not play aggressive,” he said. “Win or lose, we’re going to be aggressive. Swing hard, serve tough. That’s what we did in the second game and we continued that trend up until the third game.”

Ferguson used a 7-2 run to grab a 16-12 lead midway through Game 3, only to see the Rams reel off eight of the next nine points to forge ahead 20-17. The Falcons twice closed within one, the last time at 23-22, but Lake Mary’s Hannah Driscoll pounded home a kill and Katia Haak closed the game with an ace.

“It’s really contagious when our girls are flying around and getting balls up and down,” Lake Mary coach Brandon East said.

Read more Miami-Dade High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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