Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, which beat Miami Belen 13-10 in the 2013 boys’ water polo state final, will face its Miami rival again at this year’s tournament hosted by Ransom Everglades.
But this time, the matchup comes much earlier in the competition.
Aquinas and Belen will meet Friday at 12:30 p.m. in a state quarterfinal that should go a long way toward determining the champion.
“There no weak teams left,” said Aquinas Coach Michael Goldenberg, who returns 11 of the 18 boys who helped his team win the state title last season. “Last year, in the quarterfinals, we needed overtime to beat Gulliver.
“We went on to win state. It is what it is.”
Belen also needed overtime on March 1 of this season to beat Aquinas 7-6 in a low-scoring game and the only meeting the rivals have had this season.
Aquinas (21-2) also lost to Ransom 13-8 on March 11 but has since won 14 in a row. During the winning streak, Aquinas avenged that loss to Ransom, winning 15-11.
Of the eight boys’ teams at state, Goldenberg believes “five or six” could win the title, mentioning, in no order, Aquinas, Belen, Gulliver and Orlando’s Dr. Phillips as the main contenders.
The boys’ quarterfinals begin Friday with Dr. Phillips taking on Lake Mary at 9:30 a.m., followed by Gulliver vs. Riviera Beach’s Suncoast at 11. After Aquinas and Belen are done, Cypress Bay and Winter Park play at 2 p.m.
Of those eight, three have won state titles: Aquinas (2013), Belen (2009) and Gulliver (2007).
The girls’ state tournament, which also gets started Friday at Ransom, has been easier to figure out. Gulliver won state four consecutive times (2005-2008), and then Ransom earned four titles in a row (2009-2012).
Last season, fittingly perhaps, those two teams met in the final, with Gulliver prevailing 9-8.
Ransom will get things going Friday at 9 a.m. with a matchup against Boca Raton’s St. Andrews. That will be followed by Fort Lauderdale’s Westminster Academy vs. Winter Park at 10:30; Orlando’s Lake Nona vs. Orlando’s Olympia at noon; and Gulliver vs. Pembroke Pines Charter at 1:30 p.m.
Gulliver (25-1) has beaten Ransom twice this season, winning 12-6 and 13-7. But Ransom won the most recent matchup with an 11-10 victory on April 5.
Ransom (22-2), led by Princeton recruit Chelsea Johnson and her 75 goals and 36 assists, has lost just three matches in the past two years — all of them to Gulliver.