The ultimate goal is a state championship at St. Thomas Aquinas.
But the Raiders didn’t take the prospect of maintaining their Broward County dominance lightly Saturday.
Aquinas withstood an early challenge from rising contender Pompano Beach and secured its second consecutive championship of the BCAA Big 8 girls’ volleyball tournament with a 25-21, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18 victory at Cardinal Gibbons in Fort Lauderdale.
“This is hands down a pride thing to win this, but it’s also good competition and we’re really excited to win this tournament again,” Aquinas coach Lisa Zielinski said. “It really came down to our serve and pass. We tried to keep the momentum and we did a good job stopping [Pompano] from putting together those big runs on us after the second game.”
Tied after the first two games, the Raiders jumped ahead early in the third game and for the majority of it, held on to a five-point lead.
Aquinas (22-4), which beat Monarch and Cypress Bay in the earlier rounds, had secured the momentum by the fourth game, controlling the tempo and eventually closing out the match.
Senior Nikki Lyons, a Pepperdine University commit, paced the Raiders’ attack throughout the match and finished with 19 kills, eight digs and two blocks.
Senior outside hitter Kara Mason delivered several clutch kills and finished with 18 to go along with 11 digs, and sophomore outside hitter Brooke Bauer totaled 16 kills and 13 digs.
Pompano Beach (19-5), which beat Western and Pembroke Pines Charter in straight sets to reach the final, was led by Paige Alsten’s 13 kills and three blocks. Nikki Esposito had 12 kills, eight digs and two aces and Casey Calhoun finished with 43 assists and 20 digs.
The Raiders are also enjoying continuity in their lineup after having a couple of key players missing at times this season with injuries including Bauer, who missed the recent trip to Chicago to play in the Asics Invitational.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some depth, but it’s nice to play well and doing it with everybody back together again,” Zielinski said.
Aquinas, a state semifinalist in Class 7A last season, was counting on the challenge from its foes Saturday as it prepares for the upcoming postseason.
“We knew Pompano would come out strong because they’re always tough and they fight no matter what the score is,” Lyons said. “This tournament is good especially coming off the tournament we played in Chicago, it really helps us maintain a high level of competition since this is it for us as far as regular season games.”
Semifinals: St. Thomas Aquinas d. Cypress Bay; Pompano Beach d. Western; Quarterfinals: St. Thomas Aquinas d. Monarch; Pompano Beach d. Pines Charter; Cypress Bay d. West Broward; Western d. Fort Lauderdale.