The Ransom Everglades girls’ water polo team knew it needed to become a balanced scoring squad this season in order to repeat as state champions.
That goal came to fruition Saturday afternoon.
Senior Sofia Rivas scored five goals and three other players deposited three each in the back of the net to lead the Raiders to a 14-10 win over Orlando Lake Nona and secure the school’s second consecutive state championship.
Ransom Everglades (25-1) won its sixth state title in the past seven seasons.
“The last time we had our top player graduate, when Ashleigh [Johnson] left [in 2012], we didn’t handle it so well, and we lost the following season,” Rivas said. “With Chelsea [Johnson] gone this season, we as seniors said we weren’t going to let that happen again.”
The Johnson sisters, who both play for Princeton University, were influential in Ransom’s run to four consecutive state titles from 2009 to 2012. But the year after Ashleigh graduated, Ransom’s run was snapped in the final against rival Gulliver.
Chelsea helped put Ransom back on top last season with a championship.
This season, it was up to Rivas, who has signed with California, and a talented group to keep the Raiders there.
Fellow seniors Lucy Grossman and Katie Pfleger contributed Saturday with three goals each, as did talented junior Sofia Carrera-Justiz.
The three have also been mainstays during Ransom’s championship run.
“It was a team effort, and I just wanted to do my best for this team,” Carrera-Justiz said. “It was harder this season without Chelsea on this team, because it was a little difficult toward the beginning figuring out strengths and weaknesses. Everyone had a goal and a role on this team.”
Ransom defeated Lake Nona for the third time this season, although the Lions (23-7) kept each game within four goals or less. Lake Nona is coached by Miami Beach High alum and former Gulliver coach Alex Bennett, who led Gulliver to eight consecutive state titles from 2001 to 2008 and one of the nation’s longest winning streaks in any sport (224 wins in a row).
“We’ve played Lake Nona three times, and the first two times they knew how we were going to play,” said Carrera-Justiz, who was battling the flu entering Saturday’s game. “It was a little tricky for us, but we figured it out.”
After falling behind 2-1 early, Ransom scored six consecutive goals to take a 7-2 edge and never trailed again.
Lake Nona did cut Ransom’s lead to 11-8 with 5:19 to go in the fourth quarter.
But back-to-back goals by Grossman and Rivas put the Raiders back up by five. Two more goals by junior Amy Branch, who finished with a team-high four goals, cut Ransom’s lead to 13-10 with 2:12 to go. Rivas sealed the outcome a minute later with her fifth goal.
Ransom graduates six seniors and finished the season on a 13-game winning streak following its lone loss of the season to Orlando Dr. Phillips.
“It wasn’t just about one player [Saturday],” Ransom coach Eric Lefebvre said. “We adjusted, and it was about working as a unit.”