Taking on a team that has hung up seven state championship banners over its pool in the past nine years might be intimidating for some teams.
But the girls from the Hialeah water polo team didn’t flinch when they jumped into the pool with Ransom Everglades for a regional final matchup on Saturday morning.
The T-Breds, after a close first quarter, took off and dominated Ransom from the second period on and cruised to a dominating 17-7 victory at the Miami-Dade North Aquatic Center. The win advances Hialeah (17-1) to its second final four in a row. The T-Breds will take on South Broward in a state semifinal on Friday at Ransom-Everglades school in Coconut Grove at 5:30 p.m.
Ransom coach Eric Lefebvre got a much better result a few hours later when he watched his boys’ team, the defending state champions, easily cruise past Miami Beach 14-7 and will enjoy “home-pool” advantage next week as they also take on South Broward in a state semifinal at 8:30 p.m.
The Ransom girls (22-5) were looking to avenge last year’s loss to Hialeah in the state play-in round but, with Ashley Luy and Jeannet Garcia leading the way for the T-Breds with five and four goals, respectively, the Raiders were never really in it.
“We had been waiting for this game all season and, I don’t know, we just really wanted it and just jumped in that pool and executed,” said Luy whose team suffered a heartbreaking two-point loss to Orlando Olympia in last year’s state semis and now are a determined bunch to get back and give Hialeah High School its first state championship in any sport since the baseball team won it in 2002. “We’re going all the way. We want it. We’re not settling for anything less than the big prize this time.”
We’ve worked way too hard toward this, and now we have two left to finish it.”
Hialeah broke loose from a 2-2 tie after one period and took a 9-4 lead to the halftime break. Any hopes of a Ransom comeback were quickly squashed when the T-Breds scored five times in the first four minutes of the third period to go up 14-4, all but ending the issue.
“Hats off to Ransom, a great program with all of those state titles and championship pedigree so to beat them two years in a row is really a testimony to our girls and how hard they’ve worked to bring this program to where it is,” said Hialeah coach Alex Donis. “Our girls came out and made a statement today. They are a very very motivated group right now and determined to bring back a championship and not settle for anything less.”
Riding the momentum of a golden-goal overtime upset of Hialeah in the regional semifinals five days earlier and making their deepest postseason run since making it to the state title match in 2005, Miami Beach (21-3) still had a tall task as the Ransom boys entered the match as the favorite.
Steady play from senior Matt Simko and freshman Lucas Gomez (four goals apiece) allowed the Raiders (27-2) to build a 7-3 lead at the half. Gomez then came out and scored three of his four goals to open the third period to build the lead to 10-3 and Ransom, which barely squeaked out a 6-5 win over Gulliver in the regional semifinals, coasted from there.
“I think last week against Gulliver we expected to win by more so that was a little bit of a wake-up call for us and today we came out, jumped out in front early and took care of business from there,” Simko said. “It really got us to re-focus, and [Saturday] was another huge step for us. We’re feeling good and looking forward to trying to repeat as state champions next week.”