Miami-Dade High Schools

Westminster Christian seeks different outcome in girls’ volleyball final this year

Westminster Christian’s sole concern has been reversing their recent luck at the state tournament.

The Warriors wore black jerseys Tuesday after having worn white and green each of the past two seasons, both of which ended with semifinal losses. They didn’t even want to stay in the same locker room they had the past two years.

Maybe the superstition paid off.

Or perhaps it was a skilled performance led by Jenny Ceballos and Sylvia Hernandez — who each had 24 kills — that catapulted Westminster Christian to a 25-21, 25-21, 19-25, 25-21 victory over Gainesville St. Francis in a Class 3A semifinal.

The victory also reverses the trend of losing for Miami-Dade teams as the Warriors picked up the county’s first win at the tournament since Palmer Trinity in 2008.

Westminster Christian (27-6) won its first match at the state tournament since 1987 and will attempt to win its first state title when it plays Orlando First Academy on Wednesday at 3 p.m. First Academy has won five consecutive state titles.

“Our first reaction was relief,” Westminster Christian coach Julie Doan said. “But we’re excited and anxious for [Wednesday], too.”

Hernandez and Ceballos delivered timely kills thanks to the precise setting of Kelsey Taylor, who finished with 48 assists.

“We’ve been focusing a lot on our passing,” Hernandez said. “It’s one of our priorities and we need to pass so our setter can get a good set and set up our hits well.”

Taylor, who plans to attend Miami Dade College, led a defensive effort that held off the Wolves following their comeback to win the third game of the match.

“I think we let our excitement get the best of us a little bit in the fourth game,” Hernandez said. “But St. Francis is a good team and we came out really wanting it.”

Taylor finished with 13 digs and was one of five Westminster Christian players to finish in double figures in the category. Libero Susie Forbes, a Palm Beach Atlantic commit, finished with 12 digs, Ceballos and her sister, Sammy, each had 11, and Hernandez had 10.

“Our girls have been mad since last year and I think they just built momentum even in that third game to be able to close it out in four,” Doan said.

Next, Westminster Christian takes on the team that denied it a shot at the title in a semifinal loss last season.

First Academy won three consecutive state titles in Class 2A before moving up to 3A and winning the past two. The Royals are led by four top college prospects — senior setter Brooke Green, a Charleston Southern commit, and junior defensive specialist Kennedy Wilson, junior outside hitter Brittany Smith and sophomore middle hitter Carly Tower — all of whom have received several D-1 offers.

“We kind of have a chip on our shoulder because we’ve lost twice here,” Warriors coach Julie Doan said. “We’re as prepared as we’re going to be at this point. It’s just a matter of making adjustments as we get into the game.”