Archbishop McCarthy came close to snapping South Florida’s state championship drought in boys’ volleyball last spring.
But after taking a brief lead over Bishop Moore in the state final, the Mavericks ran out of gas and lost. But they enter this season as the clear favorite to the Orlando powerhouse that won its third state title since 2010.
Not since Southwest Miami in 2008 has a South Florida team won, and not since Cardinal Gibbons in 2005 has a Broward County team won a state boys’ volleyball championship.
McCarthy, a two-time state runner-up that has made seven appearances in the tournament since 2004, appears to have the right combination of experience and talent to break the area’s title drought.
Veteran coach Karen Frank, who has coached McCarthy’s squad since the sport became an FHSAA-sanctioned sport in 2003, brings back three of her top players from last season.
Seniors Michael Moreiras, a 5-9 outside hitter, Luis Vazquez, a 5-7 setter, and Nicky Grossman, a 5-7 libero, return to lead the Mavericks and hope the experience they learned during three tough matches at last year’s state tournament played during a brutal day-and-a-half stretch will be enough to bring home a championship.
With Vazquez (758 assists last season) pacing the attack and Grossman cleaning things up on defense (581 digs last year), Frank expects McCarthy to rely on its outside hitters like Moreiras (425 kills, 334 service points in 2015), senior Luis Sanchez (6-0) and junior Leo DeQuadros (5-10) to lead the way while a young group of middle hitters comes around.
Outside of McCarthy’s district, Cardinal Gibbons, Cypress Bay, Monarch and Flanagan, led by senior outside hitter Livan Moreno, figure to be Broward’s top contending teams.
DADE WIDE OPEN
Further south in Miami-Dade County, no team appears to be a clear-cut favorite, but several players should have great seasons.
Palmetto, a state quarterfinalist last season, might be a front-runner as the Panthers return a senior-laden squad led by 6-3 middle hitter Dylan Janney and 6-2 outside hitter Alex Brown.
Three more contenders are Killian, Ransom Everglades and Mourning, and each might have one of the most dynamic players in the state on their respective squads.
Killian’s Jason Harris, a 5-11 setter, is the third sibling in his family to play and start for the Cougars and hopes to lead them to state for the second time in three seasons.
Ransom Everglades junior Michael Colonna, who led the Raiders to their first state soccer title, hopes to do the same for the volleyball team. Colonna, a 6-5 outside hitter, is one of four returning starters from Ransom’s 22-5 team in 2015 and is already a three-time member of the USA Team Florida High Performance team.
Mourning returns a squad with plenty of club experience led by junior libero Riain Festge that will try to make it to the state tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
Two former Southwest Eagles are hoping to lead new teams to district titles and potentially the state tournament at new schools as coaches as Pedro Penate takes over at Columbus for Greg Villareal, who is now coaching at Braddock. Former Southwest and Sunset coach Emilio Urgell is hoping to make St. Brendan a title contender.
Monday: Regular season began.
March 11-12: SLAM Invitational.
April 1-2: Smoothie King
and Jungle Queen Invitationals.
April 15-16: Patriot Invitational.
April 19-21: GMAC championship.
April 25-30: District tournaments.
May 3: State play-in round.
May 6-7: State tournament.
ALL-TIME STATE CHAMPIONS
Boca Raton Spanish River (2006, 2007); Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons (2005); Longwood Lyman (2004, 2013); Loxahatchee Seminole Ridge (2011); Orlando Bishop Moore (2010, 2012, 2015); Orlando Timber Creek (2009); Southwest Miami (2003, 2008); Tampa Berkeley Prep (2014)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
OH Tony Alfonso, Pine Crest, 6-0, Sr.; OH Alex Brown, Palmetto, 6-2, Sr.; S Gabe Campo, Columbus, 5-11, Sr.; OH Michael Colonna, Ransom Everglades, 6-5, Jr.; OH Sean Drexl, Monarch, 5-9, Jr.; LIB Riain Festge, Mourning, 5-10, Jr.; OH Liam Gilchrist, Southwest, Sr.; LIB Nicky Grossman, Archbishop McCarthy, 5-7, Sr.; S-MH Brent Holcombe, Coral Reef, 6-7, Jr.; S-OH Jason Harris, Killian, 5-11, Sr.; MH Dylan Janney, Palmetto, 6-3, Sr.; OH Luis Kannee, St. Brendan, 6-3, Jr.; OH Michael Moreiras, Archbishop McCarthy, 5-9, Sr.; OH Livan Moreno, Flanagan, Sr.; OH Rafael Robert, Cypress Bay, Jr.; OH Marlon Sierra, Miami High, 6-6, Sr.; OH Tyler Theobald, Cardinal Gibbons, 6-2, Sr.; LIB Ryan Tilbrook, Cardinal Gibbons, 5-10, Jr.; S Luis Vazquez, Archbishop McCarthy, 5-7, Sr.
Note: For complete team-by-team outlooks, visit the online version of this story at www.miamiherald.com/high-schools
AMERICAN HERITAGE (Coach Lori Rembe, 12th year at AH, 26th overall). Last year: 2-9. Top players: MH Jon Gomes, Jr.; S Landon Lupo, Jr.; OH Malcolm Tilokee, Jr.
ARCHBISHOP MCCARTHY (Coach Karen Frank). Last year: 20-9 (State runner-up). Top players: OH Michael Moreiras, 5-9, Sr.; S Luis Vazquez, 5-7, Sr.; LIB Nicky Grossman, 5-7, Sr.; OH Leo DeQuadros, 5-10, Jr.; OH Luis Sanchez, 6-0, Sr.
BRADDOCK (Coach Greg Villareal, 1st year at BR, 6th overall, 104-30). Last year: N/A. Top players: OH-MH Alex Crespo, 6-1, Sr.; OH-MH Brian Hernandez, 6-2, So.; OH Anthony Lizardo, 5-10, Jr.; S-OH Alfredo Arevalo, 5-8, So.; DS-OH Emilio Saravia, 6-0, Sr.; MH-OH Erick Lopez, 6-4, Sr.
COLUMBUS (Coach Pedro Penate, 1st year at COL, 6th overall, 78-33). Last year: 21-3 (State quarterfinalist). Top players: S Gabe Campo, 5-11, Sr.; MH Patrick Gatcliffe, 6-3, Sr.; LIB Eddy De Arcos, 5-9, Sr.; OH Alexander Suarez, 6-2, Sr.; OH Logan Plummer, 5-11, Jr.; OH Jorge Gonzalez, 5-10, Sr.
CORAL PARK (Coach KC Trimble, 6th year). Last year: 8-13. Top players: OH Mason Mincey, 5-5, Sr.; S Jose Vasquez, 5-8, Sr.
CORAL REEF (Coach Yasmin Ortiz, 8th year, 234-140). Last year: 6-14. Top players: S-MH Brent Holcombe, 6-7, Jr.; OH Horacio Ruiz-Lugo, 5-11, Sr.
CYPRESS BAY (Coach Jennifer Meyer, 2nd year, 15-4). Last year: 15-4. Top players: OH Rafael Robert, Jr.; S Andres Galan Del Angel, Sr.; OH Alejandro Medina, Jr.; Lib Zach Corliss, Sr.; S Nick Taylor, Jr.; DS Mariano Robert, Fr.
FLANAGAN (Coach Jesse Ochoa, 2nd year, 14-4). Last year: 14-4. Top players: OH Livan Moreno, Sr.; OH Daryn Friedman, Jr.; S Miguel Hernandez, So.; DS Matthias Chik, Sr.; S-RS Jonathan Smith, Sr.; MH-RS Tristan Register, Sr.
HEBREW ACADEMY (Coach Stephen Izaguirre, 4th year, 36-32). Last year: 8-4. Top players: S Max Del-Giglio, 5-10, Sr.; DS Ariel Dressler, 6-0, Sr.; OH Dan Ben Avner, 6-0, Sr.
HIALEAH-MIAMI LAKES (Coach Alex Plaza). Top players: Ariel Centurion, Andrew Uria, Abraham Castillo.
KILLIAN (Coach Clinton Reid, 16th year at KIL, 21st overall). Last year: 9-6. Top players: S-RS Jason Harris, 5-11, Sr.; OH-RS Christopher Hallstrand, 6-1, Jr.; MH Jomar Mondestin, 5-10, Jr.; OH-RS Christopher Barut, 5-8, Sr.; MH Marquis Ramsay, 6-3, Sr.; DS David Forbes, 5-7, Sr.
MIAMI HIGH (Coach Jose Garcia, 5th year, 76-16). Last year: 23-4 (State round of 16). Top players: OH Marlon Sierra, 6-6, Sr.; S Brandon Peraza, 5-10, Sr.; OH Manuel Baldizon, 6-1, Jr.
MONSIGNOR PACE (Coach Markia Brown-Seetal, 9th year). Last year: 10-9. Top players: Alejandro Rodriguez, 5-7, Sr.; Deandre Symonette, 5-9, Jr.; Gweincy Clodomir, 5-8, Jr.; Johsua Delva, 5-8, Sr.; David Lockard, 5-10, So.
MOURNING (Coach Dee Rey, 9th year at ATM, 14th overall). Last year: 23-6 (State quarterfinalist). Top players: LIB Riain Festge, 5-10, Jr.; MH Will Zuluaga, 6-2, Sr.; OH-RS Walter Delgado, 6-1, Sr.
PALMETTO (Coach Chris Kallinosis, 6th year). Last year: 21-8 (State quarterfinalist). Top players: MH Dylan Janney, 6-3, Sr.; OH Alex Brown, 6-2, Sr.; LIB Nate Parker, 5-8, Sr.; S Andres Cowley, 6-1, Sr.; OH Hugo Henry, 6-2, Sr.
PINE CREST (Coach Albert Sturgeon, 7th year). Last year: District runner-up. Top players: OH Tony Alfonso, 6-0, Sr.; LIB Ben Brody, 5-10, Jr.; OH Luke Mansour, 6-1, Sr.
RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Roger Peluso, 17th year at RE, 27th overall). Last year: 22-5. Top players: OH Michael Colonna, 6-5, Jr.; OH Nick Cobb, 6-0, Sr.; MH David Snitcovsky, 6-2, Sr.; LIB Riss Mendizabol, 5-9, Jr.; S Jake Rivlin, 6-0, Jr.; MH John Mistele, 5-11, Jr.
RIVIERA PREP (Coach Matthew Jordan, 3rd year). Last year: First-year team. Top players: OH Pablo Portes, 5-10, Sr.; MH Manny Guerra, 6-1, Sr.; MH-RS Yves Esslinger, 6-0, Jr.; DS Nicholas Ingold, 6-0, So.
ST. BRENDAN (Coach Emilio Urgell, 2nd year, 13-7). Last year: 13-7. Top players: OH Luis Kannee, 6-3, Jr.; MH Jorge Gonzalez, 6-4, Jr.; S Marc Diaz, 6-0, Jr.; MH Jonah Sanchez, 6-4, Sr.; LIB Albert Collins, 5-9, Sr.; OH A.J. De la Torriente, 6-0, Sr.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Coach Eric Wurts, 8th year at STA, 15th overall, 209-81). Last year: 11-10. Top players: S Evan Wurts, 5-6, Jr.; OH Tyler Thomas, 6-0, Jr.; OH Nicholas Hernandez, 6-1, Sr.; MH-OH Paul Donnelly, 6-2, Jr.; MH Mike Murphy, 6-2, Jr.; OH Nick Rowe, 6-0, Jr.
SCHECK HILLEL (Coach Andrew Butler, 3rd year, 10-2). Last year: 7-1. Top players: OH Bradley Moskovitz, 6-2, Sr.; OH Jacky Kleinbaum, 6-2, Jr.; S Salomon Lapco, 5-10, Sr.; S Daniel Assor, 5-9, Jr.; MH Isaac Darwiche, 6-6, Sr.
SLAM (Coach Alfonso Alvarez, 3rd year at SLAM, 17th overall). Last year: 4-19. Top players: S A.J. Alvarez, 5-8, So.; OH Daniel Thews, 6-2, Jr.; OH Alex Reyes, 5-7, Fr.
SUNSET (Coach Camilo Gaitan, 9th year, 164-67). Last year: 7-15. Top players: S-RS Pedro Igorra, 5-11, Jr.; OH David Gonzalez, 6-0, Jr.; S-RS Joseph Igorra, 5-9, Jr..
WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Steve Norton, 1st year). Last year: 3-14. Top players: OH T.J. North, 6-1, Sr.; LIB-OH Josh Avery, 5-11, Sr.; S Ian Poveda, 6-1, Jr.; OH Danny Verdeja, 6-0, Jr.; MH John Square, 6-5, 8th; OH-LIB Christian Matos, 5-7, Sr.