Miami Killian coach Clinton Reid watched his team play some of its best volleyball of the season to win its district last week.
It took a set Tuesday for the Cougars to regain that form against Belen Jesuit, but once they did, they had little trouble punching their ticket to the state tournament with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-8) victory over the host Wolverines in a state play-in match.
Killian (24-3) secured its second trip to state in the past three seasons and third overall.
"I was surprised at the way we were playing in that first set," Reid said. "At the level this team practices, I know they were better than that. I think it was nerves early in the match."
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Killian fell behind 8-1 in the first set before methodically cutting away at the lead and eventually winning 25-23.
After some closely contested points in the second, the Cougars pulled ahead and were never challenged in the third set.
Killian will take on Columbus, which advanced to state with its own sweep of SLAM Academy on Friday in a state quarterfinal at 7 p.m. at Golden Gate High School in Naples.
Mourning will take on Archbishop McCarthy in another quarterfinal at 3 p.m. as four South Florida teams overall advanced to the tournament.
Killian lost a close best-of-three match to Columbus two weeks ago in the GMAC semifinal round. In that match, the Cougars had two match points, but could not secure the clinching point.
"We need to work on that start to the match because we can’t have that happen against a team like Columbus," Reid said. "We can’t afford to give them chances."
Seniors Jason Harris and Christopher Barut are the only two players that played at state the last time Killian made it.
Harris finished with 14 kills and six assists and Barut had eight kills and five digs.
Jomar Mondesin totaled eight kills, Anthony Abadin had 20 assists and eight digs and Christopher Hallstrand finished with seven kills, 10 service points, 10 digs.
"We had to get those jitters out and play our game, once we settled down, we played much better," Harris said. "We’re trying to help the other guys who were freshmen that last time we went to state. Everyone is on track to win and we’re all excited to go back to state."
MORE REGIONAL VOLLEYBALL
▪ Columbus d. SLAM 25-19, 25-14, 25-14: A balanced offensive effort led the Explorers (27-1) to their second consecutive state tournament berth. The Explorers will face Killian, who defeated Belen on Tuesday, in the state quarterfinals in Naples on Friday.
“We didn’t have our best game, but our boys battled real hard and they did the little things right,” first-year head coach Pedro Penate said. “Our whole offense is balanced – we don’t have one superstar, we have six or so guys that contribute at all times.”
Senior outside hitter Jorge Gonzalez led the Explorers with eight kills while outside hitter Logan Plummer and middle blocker Alex Suarez added six kills each in the winning effort. On the defensive side, Eddy deArcos delivered a match-high 20 digs to help stifle the Titans’ attack.
Although the Titans (20-8) managed to keep up with the Explorers’ pace early in each of the three sets, Columbus caught momentum and pulled away in the latter half of each stanza en route to the sweep.
▪ Mourning d. South Broward 25-18, 21-25, 25-15, 25-22: Will Zuluaga had 17 kills and five blocks, while Riain Festge had 39 assists, four kills, two aces and a block in the win for the Sharks (22-5).
“It’s the best thing we could wish for, especially for a team like this,” said Ray Peterson, who had 13 kills and an ace. “We are a team. We had to overcome it and that’s what we did.”
▪ Archbishop McCarthy d. Pine Crest 25-22, 25-23, 25-17: The Mavericks were back on the court where their season ended in the state semifinals last season on Tuesday. This trip to Pine Crest ended on a much happier note, however, as the Mavericks rolled to a three-set victory and a spot in this weekend’s state tournament in Naples.
McCarthy (26-2) is seeking its first state championship in boys’ volleyball in what will be its eighth trip to state.
On Tuesday, Nicky Grossman led the way with 14 points and 30 digs, Michael Moreiras had 12 points with 17 digs and Ozzie Fernandez recorded 12 points and eight kills. The Mavericks will face Mourning in a state quarterfinal Friday.
▪ Other score: Boca Raton d. Monarch 25-23, 25-20, 25-16.