They had to wait a while to do it, but the wait proved well worth it for the St. Thomas Aquinas boys volleyball team.
In a match that started late and didn’t end until close to midnight, the Raiders avenged a March 21 regular season loss to Wellington in the Jungle Queen Classic by defeating the previously undefeated Wolverines in straight sets, 25-20, 25-22, 25-19 when it counted the most – in a state quarterfinal contest at Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale.
The Raiders, (20-3) making their first-ever state appearance in boys volleyball, move into Saturday’s state semifinal match at noon where they will take on Tampa Berkeley Prep. which was a straight set winner over Ransom-Everglades in their quarterfinal. Wellington finished 28-1.
"Our team is mostly all seniors and I think that really helped tonight," said Aquanis’ senior captain Nick Rusk who led the way for the Raiders with 16 kills. "We played Wellington in the Jungle Queen and lost a close one so I think the drive that we were facing them on a court we always play on and we were riding the momentum from defeating our district rivals and then McCarthy in regionals – I just think everyone was ready to go tonight and we weren’t ready to go home yet."
Even though Aquanis never opened up any kind of large lead, the Raiders were in control of all three sets, leading throughout most of the match. Oppostite hitter Sean Davis also had a big night recording 11 kills.
"I know we really pushed them at the Jungle Queen and felt we could play better as it seemed like we let that match get away from us," said Aquinas head coach Eric Wurts. "I told them tonight that we couldn’t let it get away from us this time. They got a little hissy with each other in the first set but they fought out of it and that’s all you ask because you saw them make some great plays out on that court and they stuck together."