Westminster Christian simulated all the pregame hoopla of a state championship game Saturday morning for its girls’ volleyball team.
From walking single-file to the gym with parents and supporters cheering on to taking team pictures before the match, the Warriors wanted to set the tone for what was at stake.
Westminster earned the chance to do it all again next week after scoring an impressive 25-12, 25-14, 25-18 victory over visiting Fort Myers Bishop Verot in a Class 5A state semifinal.
The Warriors (26-4) advanced to the state championship match for the first time since 2013 — when they won their lone state title — and fourth time in school history.
Westminster Christian will take on either Orlando Lake Highland Prep or Jacksonville Bolles in the Class 5A championship match Thursday at West Port High in Ocala.
“We feel like we do a great job of scouting our opponents whether it’s in the regular season or in the playoffs,” Westminster Christian coach Julie Doan said. “Our girls executed our game plan today perfectly and did a great job taking their best players out of the match. They virtually did nothing against us.”
The Warriors controlled the match from the outset and never trailed in any of the three sets.
Nikkia Benitez led Westminster with 18 kills and 10 digs and Priscilla Hernandez had 12 kills and 13 digs to pace the Warriors’ attack. Quinn Blanco had 19 assists and Ingrid Savola had 13.
Gabrielle Miller and Sophia Poveda anchored the defensive effort against Bishop Verot’s tough senior hitting combo of Mindie Mabry and Margaux Fry, limiting them throughout the match.
▪ Class 4A state semifinal — Palm Beach Benjamin d. Palmer Trinity 25-21, 27-25, 25-20: The Falcons battled in each set, nearly coming away with the win in the second that would have tied the match.
But Benjamin’s well-timed blocking kept Palmer Trinity (16-6) from sustaining any momentum and ended the Falcons’ season at the Belen Jesuit gym.
Benjamin advanced to the state final, where it will play Orlando First Academy on Thursday in Ocala.
“Their blockers were constantly at the right place at the right time to stop us and basically our attack failed us,” Palmer Trinity coach William Gonzalez said. “We’re not happy with the result, but we still had a great season overall with a lot of young players stepping up in place of some great ones we lost.”
The Falcons made their fourth appearance in a state semifinal since 2005 and were led by Ashley Quero’s 15 kills, 18 digs and four blocks. Juliette Hamilton had 28 assists, and Grace Seide finished with three aces.
Andre C. Fernandez
▪ Class 9A state semifinal — Boca Raton d. Ferguson 25-11, 25-21, 25-17: Ferguson came up short in its goal of making it to the state finals, falling in a 3-0 sweep to Boca Raton in front of its home crowd.
The Bobcats (23-2) were powered by a stingy defense that tallied a total of 15 blocks, led by junior outside hitter Vittoria Sottani’s team-high six blocks, to stifle Ferguson’s attack throughout the match.
Senior outside hitter Christine Jarman led the Bobcats with a team-high 14 kills, adding 12 digs in the victory.
Now Boca Raton will travel to Ocala to take on Oviedo for the Class 9A state title.
“This was probably the best I’ve seen my team play all year,” Boca Raton coach Amanda Angermeier said. “They knew what was on the line and they showed up in a big way.”
In the first set, the Bobcats pulled away with a 13-3 run to close out the stanza and a block by Boca Raton senior middle blocker Taylor Garcia to finish it.
The Falcons (25-3) rebounded in the second set, keeping within striking distance in an effort to tie the match. A late comeback effort by Ferguson, cutting their deficit down to within three points late in the set, was cut short by a Sotanni kill to end the set and give the Bobcats a 2-0 lead. And Boca Raton pulled away with an 8-1 run in the third set.
Senior outside hitter Michelle Cuervo led Ferguson with 14 kills.
“We accomplished a lot this year, but we came up a little short of our goal of making it to a state championship,” Ferguson coach Greg Shanower said. “I’m very proud of the way our girls fought until the end.”