Ten minutes had passed since the match ended.
Nikki Colonna was still shaking and her voice was still cracking as she spoke.
But it was a nervous relief for her and the Ransom Everglades girls’ volleyball team after surviving a five-game thriller against host Hollywood Chaminade in the Region 4-4A final that clinched the Raiders a second consecutive trip to the state final four.
Ransom’s 25-15, 26-24, 22-25, 23-25, 15-13 victory moved it into the Class 4A state semifinals Tuesday in Kissimmee, where it will play Tallahassee Florida High at 1 p.m. Ransom eliminated Chaminade in the regional finals for the second consecutive season and the Lions fell short in their bid to reach state for the first time since 2009.
“I’m so excited we have another chance to play at state,” Colonna said. “We really pulled through in that fifth set as a team.”
Colonna had 16 kills and 25 assists and Caroline Sklaver finished with 19 kills, 32 assists and three blocks to lead the Raiders (28-3). Sklaver also had the match-clinching kill as she snuck the ball past the Chaminade front row that, anchored by Emily O’Neil, had given Ransom plenty of issues throughout the third and fourth games of the match.
Sydney Bent came up with several key points in the decisive game and finished with 11 kills. Libero Tere Bernace finished with 48 digs, and Sophie Bullard had 13 kills.
“We really had to go back to basics and go point by point,” Colonna said. “We made sure to tune out the fans and keep our composure.”
Ransom seemed in total control in the first game, but barely survived a point-for-point duel in the second game to take a 2-0 lead.
Chaminade (18-13) countered behind Emily O’Neil, Amber Addison and Jacqui Koebel, each of whom came up with key blocks and kills throughout the match.
Ransom appeared ready to clinch the match in the fourth leading 23-19. But a few errors helped Chaminade score six consecutive points and force a fifth game.
In the fifth, Chaminade turned away two match points to cut Ransom’s lead to 14-13 before Colonna ended the rally.
“Both teams wanted it bad, but this is great right now,” Sklaver said. “Our passing was good all game, but it was just a matter of executing at the end.”
Shanower got the answer he wanted as the Falcons traveled to West Broward High and methodically dispatched the Bobcats in straight games to advance to the state final four.
“We didn’t know much about them (West Broward) so we just focused all week on serving tough in an effort to try and run them out of their system passing,” said Shanower who is making his second trip to state with the Falcons having made it there in 2009. “I thought losing to Lourdes in the district final was actually a good thing for us and really made us work that much harder having to go on the road in regionals. I kept that district runner-up trophy right next to the court every day during practice to remind them of that loss to Lourdes.”
Ferguson (24-6) was led by freshman sensation Michelle Cuervo who enjoyed a huge afternoon recording 23 kills and 11 digs.
Gabriela Beverly (7 kills, 3 digs), Annika Reczeck (14 kills, 4 blocks, 6 digs), Sophie Serrano (16 assists, 4 digs), and Alexandra Reczeck (16 digs) were the other top performers.
“I’m so proud of our team, we worked so hard all year to get to this point,” said Cuervo. “Making it to state was our goal and now we’ve reached it but we want to try and take it all the way now.”
Alexi Deane (10 kills, 3 blocks, 6 digs), Cassidy Bonito (25 assists, 7 digs) and Alexandria Hawkins (10 digs) led the way for West Broward which finished 19-8.
The Warriors (26-6) set the pace early and didn’t let up. Westminster will take on the Gainesville St. Francis-Tallahassee Maclay winner.
"I’d like to think we have a bunch interchangeable players," Warriors coach Julie Doan Kurenuma said. "It seems like we always have someone different step up on offense in every match, and we knew (Benjamin) had two dangerous (frontline) players our girls had to keep their eyes on."
Sylvia Hernandez, a 5-11 senior led the balanced attack with 16 kills, plus eight digs from the backcourt. Jenny Ceballos, also a 5-11 senior, had 14 kills and served five aces.
Jessica Armstrong and Savannah Logan led the Buccaneers (22-3) with 10 and six kills, respectively.
The Warriors jumped out to a 7-1 lead to start the match with Hernandez accounting for three of the points with kills. She provided the clinching spike off a Kelsey Taylor set to open the contest at 25-18.
"We knew it was important to get them quickly and play with energy," Hernandez said. "The team did a good job of continuing to spread the ball around."
The second game started with a neck-and-neck battle as the teams tied nine times, the final time being at 14-14 before Westminster’s superior depth at the net took its toll as Sammy Ceballos took a loose ball at game point and made the kill (25-21), catching the Benjamin players out of position after a scramble to attempt to survive the point.
The wearied Buccaneers hardly challenged the Warriors in the third game with Westminster reserve Courtney Clausell closing out the match with a block.
The Wolves will have to wait at least another year to make travel plans, falling in three sets to Jensen Beach.
For the Wolves, University of Miami commit Brooke McDermott led the way with a game-high 11 kills.
The visiting Sharks (20-1) saw their unbeaten run come to an end in a loss to the two-time state semifinalists in the Class 2A regional finals. Sheridan Hills (20-4) advanced to face Foundation Academy of Winter Garden on Friday. BRANT LONG
Davis scored on runs of one, six and 35 yards as the Rams (19) blanked the Knights (1-9) on a sloppy, muddy field. Jonathon Brown had 73 yards rushing on 19 carries for Coral Park.