It’s a new era for Miami Killian volleyball.
The Cougars boys won their first state championship last year, but then said goodbye to their longtime coach Clinton Reid, who retired after 22 seasons coaching in Miami-Dade County.
But Killian is still quite capable of winning back-to-back titles with the roster it returned in 2018.
High-flying outside hitter Jomar Mondestin (5-11) leads an experienced Cougars’ squad that will try to become the first Dade team to repeat as state champs in the sport on the boys’ side.
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Senior setter Diego Savelli is one of the county’s best at his position and returns along with outside hitters Daniel Pupiro and Ryan Ollie to lead a potent attack.
The best chance to dethrone Killian might belong to another South Florida team.
After a final four finish a year ago, Cardinal Gibbons returns a loaded squad led by Pepperdine University signee J.T. Martin, a 6-8 middle blocker, who is rated the top player in the nation at his position.
Martin was also member of the USA Volleyball Youth national team at the age of 16 and also had been offered by UCLA.
Martin is joined by 6-5 senior Ethan Shinn and stellar outside hitters Reece Kramer, a 6-2 senior, and Michael Valenzi, a 6-1 sophomore.
More contenders in South Florida include Archbishop McCarthy, which returns one of the best sophomores in the state in 6-3 outside hitter Omar Hoyos.
Palmetto, Southwest, Columbus, SLAM and Ransom are also among the best in Miami-Dade.
South Broward and Monarch look to contend again in Broward along with West Broward, a team on the rise.
March 9-10: Smoothie King Invitational; SLAM Invitational
March 16-17: OVTA tournament
April 6-7: Jungle Queen tournament at Gibbons; Palm Beach Classic
April 13-14: Florida Christian tournament
April 18: GMAC championship
April 23-28: Districts
May 1: State play-in matches
May 4-5: State tournament at Ransom Everglades
FORMER STATE CHAMPIONS
Southwest Miami (2003, 2008); Longwood Lyman (2004, 2013); Cardinal Gibbons (2005); Boca Raton Spanish River (2006, 2007); Orlando Bishop Moore (2010, 2012, 2015); Orlando Timber Creek (2009); Seminole Ridge (2011); Tampa Berkeley Prep (2014); Archbishop McCarthy (2016); Miami Killian (2017).
1. Killian; 2. Cardinal Gibbons; 3. Archbishop McCarthy; 4. Southwest; 5. Palmetto; More contenders: Columbus, South Broward, Ransom Everglades, SLAM, Monarch, Sunset, Braddock, West Broward.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
OH Omar Hoyos, Archbishop McCarthy, 6-3, So.; MH J.T. Martin, Cardinal Gibbons, 6-8, Sr.; OH Jomar Mondestin, Killian, 6-0, Sr.; S Ryan Peluso, Ransom, 5-9, 8th; S Diego Savelli, Killian, 5-7, Sr.; S Ethan Shinn, Cardinal Gibbons, 6-5, Sr.
More to watch: S A.J. Alvarez, SLAM, 5-7, Sr.; LIB-OH Luke Arill, Palmetto, 5-0, Sr.; MH Andres Blandino, Columbus, 6-3, Sr.; MH Alex Cabana, Braddock, 6-4, Sr.; LIB Thomas Klantshi Cox, West Broward, 5-10, So.; OH Eric Diaz, Belen, 6-1, Jr.; Miguel Espinosa, Southwest; MH Brandon Fernandez, St. Brendan, 5-10, Sr.; OH Matthew Garcia, Palmetto, 6-2, Sr.; MH Jose Gonzalez, West Broward, 6-5, Sr.; OH Reece Kramer, Cardinal Gibbons, 6-2, Sr.; Justin Losada, Southwest; LIB David Pompeu, Monarch, 5-8, Sr.; OH Daniel Pupiro, Killian, Jr.; S-OH Ytalo Vasquez, Western, Sr.; S-OH Daniel Vasquez, Western, 6-1, Jr.
KILLIAN (Coach Jimmy Exley, 1st year at KIL, 11th overall, 199-87). Last year: 28-2 (State champions). Top players: OH Jomar Mondestin, 5-11, Sr.; OH Daniel Pupiro, 5-10, Jr.; S Diego Savelli, 5-8, Sr.; OH Ryan Ollie, 6-1, Sr.; S Cristobal Palma, 5-9, So.; MH Ivan Sosa, 6-3, Jr.; LIB Jorge Velasquez, 5-8, Jr.
PALMETTO (Coach Chris Kallinosis, 8th year). Top players: LIB-OH Luke Arill, 5-0, Sr.; OH Matthew Garcia, 6-2, Sr.; S Alexander Serra, 6-1, Sr.; OH Tyler Boylan, 6-0, Sr.; MB Hayden Dobbs, 6-3, Sr.; LIB Koby Rouviere, 5-9, Jr.
COLUMBUS (Coach Pedro Penate, 2nd year at COL, 9th overall, 108-40). Last year: 14-5. Top players: MB Andres Blandino, 6-3, Sr.; OH Nick Suarez, 5-8, Jr.; OH Sean Salazar, 6-4, Jr.; LIB Ale Navarro, 5-5, Sr.; S Juan Diaz, 5-10, Sr.; MB Roberto Heinert, 6-1, So.
SLAM (Coach Daniel Benitez, 1st year). Last year: 23-5 (Round of 16). Top players: S A.J. Alvarez, 5-7, Sr.; OH Rafael Barrios, 6-2, Sr.; LIB Dennis Toledo, 5-8, Sr.; MH Isis Zambo, 5-7, Sr.
RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Roger Peluso, 18th year at RE, 28th overall). Last year: 24-5 (State quarterfinalist). Top players: S-RS Ryan Peluso, 5-10, 8th; OH Nick Stone, 6-0, Fr.; MB Thomas Murphy, 6-2, Jr.; OH Will Drody, 6-2, So.; LIB Gabriel Alencar, 5-7, 7th.
BRADDOCK (Coach Greg Villareal, 3rd year at BR, 8th overall, 126-53). Last year: 15-9. Top players: MB Alex Cabana, 6-4, Sr.; S-LIB Randy Iguanzo, 5-8, Jr.; OH-S Leandro Lopez, 5-11, Jr.; LIB-DS Eric Garcia, 5-8, Sr.; OH-S Alfredo Arevalo, 5-8, Sr.; OH Lance Laredo, 6-1, Sr.
ST. BRENDAN (Coach Emilio Urgell, 4th year, 49-23). Last year: 19-7. Top players: MH Brandon Fernandez, 5-10, Sr.; S Carlos Plana, 5-10, Jr.; LIB Nicholas Losa, 5-6, Jr.; DS Kyle Martin, 5-6, Jr.; OH Chris Rodriguez, 5-10, Jr.; MH Chris Iglesias, 6-0, Jr.
BELEN (Coach Friedeman Sifontes). Last year: N/A. Top players: OH Eric Diaz, 6-1, Jr.; OH-RS Nicolas Sosa, 6-2, Sr.; MH Daniel Cantens, 6-1, Jr.; OH R.J. Lopez, 6-0, So.; S Herman Suarez, 5-9, So.; LIB Gabriel Suarez, 5-4, 8th.
CORAL PARK (Coach KC Trimble).
SCHECK HILLEL (Coach Andrew Butler, 5th year). Last year: 3-8. Top players: OH Samuel Tryzmel, 5-10, Sr.; MH Benjamin Brener, 6-4, Sr.; S Ilan Lapco, 5-8, Sr.
CARDINAL GIBBONS (Coach Mike Zarate, 10th year). Last year: 24-6 (State semifinalist). Top players: MH James Martin, 6-8, Sr.; S Ethan Shinn, 6-5, Sr.; OH Reece Kramer, 6-2, Sr.; Oh Michael Valenzi, 6-1, So.; MH Austin Cinci, 6-5, Jr.; OH Jose Hidalgo, 6-2, Jr.
WEST BROWARD (Coach Harrison Albert, 3rd year, 32-9). Last year: 16-5. Top players: MH Jose Gonzalez, 6-5, Sr.; OH Michael Marsans, 6-4, Jr.; LIB Thomas Klantshi Cox, 5-10, So.; OH Jared Strauss, 6-3, Sr.
MONARCH (Coach Walt Drexl, 13th year at Mon, 20th overall, 251-158). Last year: 17-8 (Round of 16). Top players: MH-RS Alex Burgess, 6-3, So.; LIB-OH David Pompeu, 5-8, Sr.; OH Danniel Lopez, 5-10, Sr.; RS-MB Braden Rubiano, 6-2, Jr.; S Chris Lopez, 5-8, Sr.; S-RS Jack Popovics, 5-11, So.
CHAMINADE-MADONNA (Coach Jason Johnson, 14th year, 213-115). Last year: 16-7. Top players: OH-MH Domenic Bruzzi, 6-1, Jr.; S Tyler O’Connor, 6-0, Sr.; MH Nick Mowers, 6-2, Sr.
PINE CREST (Coach Aaron Gillego, 1st year). Last year: 6-10. Top players: LIB Miles Polley, 5-11, Sr.; OH Blake Guillaume, 5-11, Sr.; OH Justin Guilfu, 6-0, So.; S Henry Pliske, 6-1, Jr.; MH Brence Platner, 6-5, So.; MH David Edelson, 6-3, Sr.
WESTERN (Coach Kelly Panza, 1st year at WS, 5th overall). Last year: 18-3. Top players: OH-S Ytalo Vasquez, 6-0, Sr.; S-OH Daniel Vasquez, 6-1, Jr.; MH Avery Rafilovich, 6-4, Jr.; OH Keshaun Clarke, 5-9, Sr.; LIB-DS Pablo Natareno, 5-4, Sr.; OH Rueben Oliver, 6-2, Sr.
CYPRESS BAY (Coach Breno Ertty, 1st year). Last year: 8-10. Top players: MH Christian De Leon, 6-2, Sr.; RS-S Mariano Robert, 5-8, Jr.; OH Gustavo Medina, 5-10, So.; RS Armand Borjolly, 6-2, So.; MH-OH Chris Castellon, 6-0, Sr.; LIB Federico Bengoa, 5-8, Sr.
AMERICAN HERITAGE (Coach Lisa Moreau, 1st year). Last year: 0-7.