After years of having to deal with watching the likes of Ferguson and Coral Reef advance to the state final four and knowing they might be good enough to do it as well, the Southwest Eagles girls volleyball team broke through and enjoyed “their” moment on Tuesday night.
Eagles players gathered around and formed a circle jumping in one at a time and dancing to the music that blared over the loudspeaker because there was plenty to celebrate. They had just finished dispatching West Broward in straight sets, 25-19, 25-20, 25-20 in a Region 4-9A final in the West Broward gym.
And with that, Southwest advances to its third-ever state final four and first in 13 years. With the state having gone to on-site semifinals two years ago, the Eagles (21-4) will travel north to Palm Beach Gardens for a 9A state semifinal on Saturday at 2 p.m. PBG defeated host Cypress Bay in straight sets in the Region 3 final.
“Oh wow, it’s been forever since Southwest girls volleyball has gone to state and I’m just overwhelmed by the moment right now, what a feeling,” said senior Libero Amanda Rodriguez who led the way with 27 digs. “It was frustrating having to watch Ferguson and Coral Reef advance these past years and knowing that we were good enough to get there as well.”
Ferguson and Coral Reef have spent the last four years coming out of Miami-Dade County in Region 4, leaving Southwest in their wake along the way.
“This was all about a process that started four years ago with the mold of my four girls, the two twins (Mia and Maya Thomas), Amanda (Rodriguez) and Melody Hershman,” said Eagles head coach Alex Rivero. “Those girls put in the work and the time and had to deal with the frustration of coming up short the past few years and knew what that pain was all about but it’s all about growing and learning along the way of how to get yourself over that hump and now it’s great to see them enjoying this moment.”
The moment came thanks to some clutch play down the stretch. After breezing in the first set, the Eagles found themselves in 19-19, and 20-20 in the second and third sets, respectively before going on a run to close out each set.
“This moment is indescribable and one of the greatest feelings of my life,” said senior outside hitter Mia Thomas. “To be a senior and having fallen short all these years and deal with that frustration, it’s just a credit to our coaches for continuing to push us and bring out the best in us.”
For West Broward head coach Corey Sarrubbi and his players, it was another frustrating road block end to a season as the Bobcats (17-8) have now season their season end in the regional final for the fifth straight year.
“Frustrating for sure,” said Sarrubbi shaking his head from side to side and whose team not only has lost five straight finals but has won just one set along the way. “We just can’t seem to get over that hump but we’re going to keep working to get back here and hopefully we’ll bust through at some point.”
▪ St. Thomas d. Reagan 25-19, 25-18, 25-9: The bid for a fourth consecutive state championship by St. Thomas Aquinas has been impressive.
Ronald Reagan, Miami-Dade’s attempt to dethrone the Class 8A defending champion, found out it was an impossible task. The Raiders swept their latest opponent in a Class 8A regional final to reach a state semifinal match on Saturday at Venice (25-4) at 2 p.m.
“We kid of got use to them in what they were doing and we were able to pick our spots,” St. Thomas coach Lisa Zielinski said. “We were more patient and were able to put the ball away when we had the opportunity.”
Aquinas (21-5) has now won 12 consecutive matches, which also includes 32 consecutive sets. The victory was the Raiders’ 18 playoff win in a row, second only to Cardinal Gibbons 26 in a row by a Broward County team from 1984-90.
St. Thomas also improved to 14-1 all-time against Miami-Dade teams in the playoffs and 3-0 all-time against Reagan.
Paula Cerame led Aquinas with 15 kills, 10 digs and four aces. Maegan Dolph added 10 digs nine kills and three aces, while Derry Costigan had 19 assists.
Reagan (22-2) was led by Wilnelis Giusti with 34 assists and nine digs, and Andrea Bernal had kills.
▪ Orlando Bishop Moore d. Archbishop McCarthy 25-17, 25-27, 26-24, 25-15: Defending 4A state champion Bishop Moore (Orlando) was able to take three of four sets over host Archbishop McCarthy Tuesday night. The Hornets (22-7) will be looking for a third consecutive state championship and fifth in the last six years.
“We struggled a little on serves, they came out aggressive,” coach Corey Marks said. “We will lose seven seniors, so we need to build up better for next season.”
Bishop Moore won the first set 25-17 with the winning point on a hitting error by the Lady Mavericks. The second set was close throughout before Archbishop McCarthy won 27-25 following a Hornets spike attempt going. Bishop Moore led the third set 24-18. McCarthy rallied to tie the score at 24, but the Hornets scored the next two points to win the set. Bishop Moore won the fourth set on a hitting error.
Archbishop McCarthy (21-7) was led by Nadia St. Thomas with 33 assists. Lauren Bandera had 10 kills and 14 digs. Marlie Monserez led Bishop Moore with 26 kills.
The Hornets will travel to face Robinson or Tarpon Springs in the state semifinal.