Volleyball coach Mauricio Diaz, who led the Southwest boys to state titles in 2003 and 2008, has joined forces with Ransom Everglades’ potent girls program — and he has already made a significant impact as an assistant.
Diaz, who remains the Southwest boys’ head coach, has known Ransom volleyball coach Roger Peluso for years — a friendship forged by mutual respect.
A couple of years ago, Peluso invited Diaz to join him on the bench, but nothing came of the conversation — at least not right away.
Last year, Diaz asked if the offer still stood, and the only thing open at Ransom was with the middle school. Diaz took it, and then moved up to varsity assistant this year after a couple of positions opened up on Peluso’s staff.
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“I’ve always wanted to work with [Diaz] to see why he got his kids to be so successful,” Peluso said.
Upon his arrival to Ransom, Diaz convinced Peluso, who had always used a 5-1 formation with one setter, to switch to a 6-2 with two setters.
Senior Nikki Colonna is Ransom’s experienced setter, and she helped the Raiders reach the Class 4A state semifinals last year, where they lost to eventual champion Orlando Bishop Moore.
Diaz helped convert 6-1 junior Caroline Sklaver from a middle blocker to a setter.
“We wanted to maximize our offense, and now we have two talented setters who are also explosive hitters,” Diaz said.
“I am offensively driven. I like volleyball at a fast pace. I like it to be brutal and violent. Defenders should be diving, and hitters should be hitting as hard as they can.”
Diaz said he has meshed perfectly with Peluso, whom he describes as more focused on defense.
“I have always been on good terms with Roger,” Diaz said. “He is all for the kids, all for growing the sport.
“There are no egos with us. I think the girls enjoy our different styles. Roger is very cerebral. He commits to teaching the girls the finer points of the game.”
Diaz is also very fond of Ransom and the school’s academic excellence. There is a possibility that his daughter, Aryanah — a skilled 11-year-old volleyball player — could end up at Ransom.
The real question, though, is if Diaz might one day leave Southwest altogether and commit to Ransom full-time.
“There is a possibility, but I can’t say for sure,” Diaz said. “I love Southwest. I was a student there. I love getting these boys who have no knowledge of the game and then getting them to play at a high level and go on to compete in college.
“For the most part, these are Cuban kids from Westchester who otherwise may not have gone to college. I’m from that same community.
“Right now, this is a good situation. I get to work some at Ransom, and I’m still able to help my alma mater.”