Seven goals in the first five minutes was all the Ransom-Everglades girls’ water polo team needed to send a strong message to Krop that there would be no upset in their state play-in game at the Miami-Dade North Aquatic Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Led by senior captain Chelsea Johnson, the Raiders easily plowed their way through Krop 18-3 and will move on to face either St. Thomas Aquinas or Boca Raton St. Andrews in a state quarterfinal contest on Friday. And they won’t have to travel far to do it as the Ransom-Everglades Aquatic Center will serve as the host venue for the state tournament.
Johnson, who entered the match with 85 goals, dominated the pool, seemingly scoring at will as she finished with half of her team’s goals (nine). While tough state quarters and semifinals lie ahead, the Raiders’ girls, who won four consecutive state titles from 2009 to 2012, can’t help but think of another possible state final with rival Gulliver Prep, which kept Ransom from a fifth consecutive championship with a 9-8 win in last year’s state title game.
“Last year was tough, coming so close and coming up a point short,” said Johnson, a Princeton commit. “We’re trying not to focus too much on Gulliver and playing each game as it comes, but inevitably it will likely be them in front of us at the end, and last time we played them we beat them in overtime by one so we should have the confidence we need going in but we have to win two more before we see them.”
“She’s one of the most dominant players in high school water polo I’ve seen in years,” said RE coach Eric Lefebvre, now in his sixth year and who has seen his share of talent come down the pike. “She’s usually double- and triple-teamed and still gets four or five goals a game and she’s extremely unselfish and always willing to distribute as well.”
Ransom improved to 23-2, their only two losses coming to Gulliver, while Krop finished its season 19-7. Jade Lubie scored all three goals for the Lightning.
But Belen’s Santiago Nunez did what leading scorers on a team are supposed to do — score.
Nunez led the way, scoring twice during a four-goal barrage in less than three minutes during the third period that allowed the Wolverines to open up a 6-1 lead and ultimately cruise to a 9-4 victory. Nunez wound up with five of his team’s nine goals and Belen, which suffered a heartbreaking three-point loss to St. Thomas Aquinas in last year’s state championship match, will get another shot at the Raiders as the two teams will square off on Friday morning in a state quarterfinal at the Ransom-Everglades Aquatic Center.
“I think we might’ve come out a bit overconfident and Krop played really well in the first half,” said Nunez. “But in the second half we just jumped back in the pool and turned it up and played the way we’re capable of playing and did what we came here to do and that’s win and move on.”
With the score tied at one, Nunez scored just 1:20 before halftime that gave his team the lead for good. Ryan Guso and Adrian Alepuz popped one goal each in at 4:46 and 3:36 of the third quarter before Nunez scored twice more over the next two minutes to essentially put the match away for Belen, which improved to 20-2.
“We’re looking forward to this weekend,” said Nunez. “Last year left a bad taste in our mouths and we’ve had a mantra all year of ‘unfinished business’ and now it’s up to us to try and finish business.”
Krop, which finished 18-7, was led by Dean Kaire who scored two of his team’s four goals.
Gulliver dominated the pool as both its girls’ and boy’s water polo teams defeated host MAST Academy on Tuesday evening to advance to the state quarterfinals Friday at Ransom Everglades.
The Raiders’ girls (25-1) outscored the Makos 10-3 in the first quarter. Camila Schafer scored 3 of the 10 first quarter goals. Gulliver led 12-4 at the half.
MAST (12-3) narrowed the score to 13-6 going into the fourth, but Gulliver scored five late goals to clinch an 18-9 win. The girls are looking to defend their 2013 state championship.
Like the girls, the Raider boys (21-6) also started strong and took a 9-1 lead over the Makos (8-9) into the second quarter. The second was close and ended on a deep goal by Hunter Moreno as time expired. Gulliver led 13-4 at the half.
The Raiders did not let up in the second half and added nine more goals to defeat the Makos 22-7.
The Gulliver girls were led by Schafer who had 9 steals and 3 assists to go along with her 3 goals. Ale Guerra had a match-high with 4 goals. Shae Baldino led MAST with 3 goals.
The Gulliver boys were led by Jan Strusinski, Jonathan Chow and Andres Guerra who all had 4 goals. Kenzo Ramos led MAST with 4 goals.
The girls advance to face the winner of Pembroke Pines Charter and Sebastian River. The boys advance to face the winner of Pembroke Pines Charter and Suncoast. Both state quarterfinal matches will be played at Ransom on Friday morning. The state semifinal will follow later that day.