Miami-Dade High Schools

Ransom Everglades, Westminster Christian facing tougher road to state

They finally ended the long drought last season.

Two teams — Ransom Everglades and Westminster Christian — won Miami-Dade County’s first state championships in girls’ volleyball since 1995.

Both programs are still in good shape to compete for back-to-back state crowns a year later.

But several of the county’s biggest stars in recent years graduated.

Westminster Christian’s Sylvia Hernandez, a three-time Miami Herald Player of the Year, is a freshman at the University of Miami.

So is TERRA’s Brooke McDermott, a first-team All-Dade selection and last year’s Miami Herald Class 8A-6A Player of the Year.

Ransom Everglades’ Nikki Colonna, a three-time All-Dade first-teamer who led the Raiders last season, is playing at Lynn University.

So who’s leading the next wave of talent?

It could be sophomore Michelle Cuervo at Ferguson.

Cuervo, a 5-10 outside hitter, is coming off a stellar freshman season in which she earned All-Dade first-team honors and led the Falcons to the Class 8A state final four.

Cuervo is regarded as one of the top overall players in the county and is already receiving letters from over a dozen Division-I schools.

Cuervo was a key contributor for the Falcons last season and showed it at the state final four when she finished with a team-high 16 kills.

Cuervo earned a national ranking among’s “Frosh 59” a list of the top 59 freshmen in the nation. The only other Dade players to earn the honors were Sylvia Hernandez and former Palmer Trinity star Paulina Prieto.

Cuervo leads a Ferguson squad that graduated a couple of key starters, including first-team All-Dade selection Annika Reczek, but still returns a strong group capable of making it back to state.

Westminster Christian has a core of underclassmen that will be led by 5-11 senior outside hitter Sammy Ceballos, already a big contributor for the Warriors the past couple of years.

At Ransom, senior 6-1 setter/middle hitter Caroline Sklaver could be the top middle blocker in the county and is committed to Princeton University.

The Raiders also have freshman Sydney Bent, who played for the USA 14-under national team and showed her prowess last season during their Class 4A state championship run.

Season outlook

Key dates

Sept. 12-13: Orlando OVA Invitational

Sept. 19-20: Berkeley Prep Invitational

Sept. 19-20: East Coast Challenge

Oct. 3-4: Chaminade Invitational

Oct. 17-18: Smoothie King Invitational

Oct. 18: BCAA championship

Oct. 20-24: District playoffs

Oct. 28-29: Regional quarterfinals

Nov. 4: Regional semifinals

Nov. 8: Regional finals

Nov. 11-15: State final four in Kissimmee

2013 state champions

Class 8A: Winter Park; 7A: Oviedo; 6A: Ocala Vanguard; 5A: Orlando Bishop Moore; 4A: Miami Ransom Everglades; 3A: Miami Westminster Christian; 2A: Naples Seacrest Country Day; 1A: Sneads.

Players to watch

OH Sydney Bent, Ransom, 5-10, Fr.; OH-RS Sammy Ceballos, Westminster Christian, 5-11, Sr.; OH Michelle Cuervo, Ferguson, 5-10, Fr.; OH Gianna Dunand, Lourdes, 5-5, Sr.; OH Ellie Nosich, Palmer Trinity, 6-0, Sr.; OH Lauren Potter, Gulliver, 5-11, Fr.; OH Ashley Reid, Killian, 5-7, Jr.; S-OH Kristine Rios, Coral Reef, 5-8, Sr.; OH Alejandra Rodriguez, Divine Savior, 5-6, Jr.; S-MH Caroline Sklaver, Ransom, 6-1, Sr.; OH Sheyanne Sullivan, Southwest, 5-10, Sr.

Team outlooks

Class 8A

1. FERGUSON (Coach Greg Shanower, 10th year at Fer, 20th overall). Last year: 24-7 (State semifinalist). Top players: OH Michelle Cuervo, 5-10, So.; OH Kourtney Lesperance, 5-8, Sr.; L Alexandra Reczek, 5-7, Sr.; MH Gabriela Beverly, 6-0, Jr.

2. LOURDES (Coach Pedro Penate, 4th year, 54-17). Last year: 22-6 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: OH Gianna Dunand, 5-5, Sr.; MH Lauren Ordonez, 5-10, Sr.; OH Brittany Bilotti, 5-5, Jr.; S Maegan Cuesta, 5-5, Jr.

3. SOUTHWEST (Coach Iris Carpio). Last year: 13-11. Top players: OH Sheyanne Sullivan, 5-10, Sr.; L Shiela Rojas, 5-4, Sr.; MH Jocelyn Garcia, 5-11, So.; S Krystal Canellas, 5-5, Sr.

4. CORAL REEF (Coach Yasmin Ortiz, 7th year, 106-48). Last year: 20-8 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: S-OH Kristine Rios, 5-8, Sr.; MH-OH Janel Kemp, 5-9, Sr.; OH Lexie Mesa, 5-6, Jr.

5. KILLIAN (Coach Clinton Reid, 14th year at KIL, 19th overall). Last year: 12-8. Top players: OH Ashley Reid, 5-7, Jr.; S-OH Adriana Arteaga, 5-7, Sr.; S Jaacqueline Machado, 5-6, Jr.; MH Amanda Aramis, 5-10, Sr.

6. BRADDOCK (Coach Cynthia Strauss, 25th year, 333-251). Last year: 9-13. Top players: OH Yanely Garcia, 5-4, Sr.; MH Jackie Guerra, 5-10, Sr.; MH Laylah Arrechea, 5-9, Sr.; S Aishel Vega-Henao, 5-3, Sr.

7. CORAL PARK (Coach K.C. Trimble, 3rd year). Last year: 7-11. Top players: S Nicole Uzieda, 5-7, Jr.; OH Chantal Guerrero, 5-7, Sr.; OH Natalee Rivera, 5-7, Sr.; OH Ashley Fornaris, 5-7, Jr.

8. SOUTH DADE (Coach Damian Goderich, 1st year at SD, 3rd overall). Last year: 5-13. Top players: MH-OH Tyrecia Lukes, Sr.; S Brittany Dixon, Jr.; OH Brianna Dixon, Jr.; OH Jodeci Lee, Jr.

Class 7A

NORTH MIAMI BEACH (Coach Natalie Sanz, 8th year). Last year: 7-5. Top players: S Laura Hernandez, 5-4, Sr.; OH Vanessa Fleury, 5-5, Sr.; OH Jennifer Flores, 5-5, Fr.; OH Laurie Derivous, 5-4, Sr.

Class 4A

1. RANSOM EVERGLADES (Coach Roger Peluso, 15th year at RE, 26th overall). Last year: 30-3 (State champions). Top players: S-MH Caroline Sklaver, 6-1, Sr.; OH Sydney Bent, 5-10, Fr.; OH Sophie Bullard, 5-9, Jr.; OH Sophia Carrera-Justiz, 5-9, Jr.

2. GULLIVER (Coach Ed Potter, 4th year at GP, 17th overall). Last year: 18-11 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: OH Lauren Potter, 5-11, Fr.; OH Blanca Mengotti, 5-7, Jr.; OH Caro Mengotti, 5-7, Jr.; S Sarah Lobo, 5-7, So.

3. CARROLLTON (Coach Kevin Carr, 5th year, 23rdoverall). Last year: 16-10. Top players: OH Maria Hornbacher, 6-0, Sr.; S Alexandra Hasner, 5-4, Sr.; L Manuela Fernandez, 5-4, Sr.; OH Gabriela Socarras, 5-7, So.

4. ST. BRENDAN (Coach Julio Arnaiz, 3rdyear, 29-19). Last year: 15-8. Top players: S Sophia Sires, 5-4, Jr.; OH Carolina Caram, 5-11, Jr.; OH Natalie Perez, 5-11, Jr.; DS Grace Calienes, 5-3, So.

5. FLORIDA CHRISTIAN (Coach Beth King, 10th year, 150-65). Last year: 15-9. Top players: OH Katerina Rey, 5-7, Jr.; OH Katie Reeder, 5-5, Sr.; OH Brittany Beckelheimer, 6-0, So.; L Nicole Fontela, 5-5, So.

Class 3A

1. WESTMINSTER CHRISTIAN (Coach Julie Doan, 11th year). Last year: 32-4 (State champions). Top players: OH-RS Sammy Ceballos, 5-11, Sr.; L-OH Jess Moo Young, 5-8, Sr.; MH Courtney Clausell, 6-2, Sr.; S-OH Isabella Hernandez, 5-11, Jr.

2. PALMER TRINITY (Coach William Gonzalez, 13th year at PT, 24th overall, 363-95). Last year: 20-6 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: OH Ellie Nosich, 6-0, Sr.; MH Ashley Quero, 6-0, So.; MH Grace Hibsman, 6-1, Jr.; L Kristen Fernandez, 5-1, Sr.

3. MIAMI COUNTRY DAY (Coach Michele Rosamagilia, 2nd year, 17-9). Last year: 17-9 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: OH Brooke Pumo, Jr.; S Sasha Jenkins St. Prix, So.; L Adriana Vivas, Sr.; MH Taylor Mashburn, Sr.

4. ARCHBISHOP CARROLL (Coach Airam Trillo, 1st year). Last year: 3-12. Top players: MH Samantha Diaz, 6-0, Sr.; OH Melanie Onorato, 5-6, Jr.; OH Corine Murat, 5-5, Jr.; DS-L Vivian Pires, 5-5, So.

5. SLAM CHARTER (Coach Alfonso Alvarez). Last year: 0-11. Top players: OH Kaitlyn Zaldivar, 5-8, So.; S Kimberly Newman, 5-7, Jr.; OH Samantha Rodriguez, 5-6, 8th; DS Nicole Perez, 5-4, 7th.

Class 2A

1. DIVINE SAVIOR (Coach Matt Willems, 1st year at DS, 9th overall, 96-115). Last year: 21-1 (Regional finalist). Top players: OH Alejandra Rodriguez, 5-6, Jr.; OH Vicki Caldera, 5-6, So.; S-L Andrea Santiago, 5-1, Sr.; MH-L-S Ana Sofia Diaz-Oballos, 5-6, Fr.

2. HEBREW ACADEMY (Coach Stephen Izaguirre, 2nd year, 5-7). Last year: 5-7. Top players: OH Hailey Dobin, 5-11, Jr.; S Stefanie Suster, 5-9, Sr.; L Melanie Arougueti, 5-6, So.

Andre C. Fernandez