Together on the girls’ volleyball coaching staff at Ransom Everglades this fall, Mauricio Diaz and Roger Peluso watched as their team helped end Miami-Dade County’s 18-year state championship drought in the sport.
The goal for Diaz, in his 16th season at Southwest, and Peluso, who also coaches the upcoming Ransom boys’ team, is to keep the county from slipping into a similar slump in the boys’ circuit.
“The fact we got back to state and we had three teams there last season shows you that participation and excitement for volleyball was up again,” Diaz said.
“Orlando is one area that has kids playing year round and that’s why you see the success they’ve had. We need to keep that going down here.”
Southwest has delivered the county’s only two state championships (2003 and 2008) in the sport since it became sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association in 2003.
And this season, the Eagles figure to be the county’s top contender to bring home a state crown at the state tournament, which returns to South Florida this year May 9-10 at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale.
Southwest returns three seniors that will be the core of the Eagles’ bid to return to state. At the forefront are hitters Ricky Reguera and William Rodriguez.
Reguera, a 6-0 outside, had 259 kills and 49 digs last season, guiding Southwest to the state semifinals for the seventh time in its history.
Joseph Perez, a 6-2 setter, had 407 assists and is expected to conduct the Eagles up-tempo attack.
Diaz is expecting big contributions from juniors Orlando Gomez and Daniel Sainz as well.
Ransom has yet to win a boys’ district championship.
That could end this season as the Raiders return one of the county’s top outside hitters in 6-3 senior Victor Campano and a strong senior core of starters that includes libero Blake Adler and middle hitter Nick Stern.
Ransom will have to contend with Columbus in a tough District 14 race.
“If all goes well, we definitely will have a chance to win it,” Peluso said. “It’s all about these kids getting enough experience, especially the ones that played other sports before the season.”
Southwest’s district got more interesting following the Florida High School Athletic Association’s latest realignment.
• Longtime rival Sunset is back in District 15 with the Eagles and hoping for a better result than it had a year ago when a promising 24-3 season ended with a loss to Coral Reef in the state play-in round.
The Knights are led by 6-4 senior Alex Lazo, a powerful middle hitter, 5-10 senior outside hitter Josh Calderon, a four-year player on the team, and senior Zach Fernandez, who is expected to be an all-around contributor.
• Coral Reef returns seven players from its state semifinalist squad although it graduated six of senior stars including basketball/volleyball standout Cedric Hankerson.
If the Barracudas are to make another run this season, they will rely on 6-7 senior Zavier Peart and a new cast of athletic basketball players who have fine-tuned their skills in volleyball. The biggest challenges for Coral Reef in District 16 may come from Palmetto and Killian.
• Mourning, which made its state debut last season, returns two of its primary standouts from its state quarterfinalist squad in 6-5 senior Matheus Mera and 6-0 senior Daniel Barrera. The Sharks are the favorites on the north end of Miami-Dade County to compete with Broward County for a return trip to state.