Three Miami-Dade County teams have made it to this weekend’s state boys’ volleyball tournament at Fort Lauderdale Pine Crest, but there is little question that Killian faces the longest odds.
In Friday’s quarterfinals, the Cougars (23-5) play defending state champion Longwood Lyman (26-0), which has won 57 matches in a row.
Lyman has lost just three sets all seasons.
However, Killian has some reason for optimism in that it beat Southwest 3-1 to get to state, and Southwest is one of those three teams that actually took a set from Lyman.
Senior Jack Harris, who serves as Killian’s captain, said Tuesday’s win over Southwest “boosted” his team’s confidence.
“We feel that [Southwest] was the second-best team in the state,” Harris said. “And we knew if we beat them, we’d have to get past No. 1 (Lyman).
“The way we look at it is one down and one to go.”
Lyman has won two state titles under current coach Russel Williams — 2004 and 2013. Killian, meanwhile, has never made it to a state final. The Cougars’ best finish came in 2007, when they were state semifinalists.
Killian coach Clinton Reid, a 60-year-old native of Kingston, Jamaica, started his school’s volleyball program in 2001 and has been there ever since.
“That first team was just guys from the band,” Reid said. “We got beat by everyone.”
The Cougars have come a long way since, and this current team is talented but small.
Harris, an outside hitter, is just 5-8. His brother Jason, a sophomore setter, is 5-10. Senior defensive specialists Julian Xuarez (5-6) and William Ortiz (5-8) and sophomore right-side hitter Chris Barut (5-7) are also small.
Junior middle blockers Jose Martinez and Damion Horton are both 6-2, providing Killian’s only height. But that is still way shorter than every other team at state.
Lyman, for example, has four of its six starters at 6-3 or 6-4.
Lyman also has an experienced team, starting four seniors and two juniors.
Harris, who can dunk a tennis ball despite his small stature, said the key to beating Lyman will be playing smart and staying together.
“It’s a huge challenge,” he said. “It’s all about placement; I won’t be able to put the ball straight down against such a huge block. We will have to go around them.”
Harris said there were times this season that his team did not play together. The last time that happened, he said, was in a loss to Ransom Everglades, which also made state.
“A couple of our guys got shut down, and we started blaming each other,” Harris said. “Our coach [Reid] got on us. He didn’t want that to ever happen again, and it hasn’t.
“I’m actually feeling good after how we played against Southwest. We played with nothing to lose. We were looser than them, and if we play with that mentality against Lyman, I don’t think anything can go wrong.”
In the other state quarterfinals involving Dade teams, Mourning (18-6) will face Boca Raton (19-7); and Ransom (26-3) plays Tampa’s Berkeley Prep (19-7).
This is Ransom first trip to state, although its coach, Roger Peluso, won a state title this fall with the girls’ volleyball team.
Mourning made it to state quarterfinals last year for the first time in school history, losing 3-0 to Bishop Moore.