As Fabiana Castro swung her right arm for the final time and the ball ricocheted off a block, the Divine Savior Sharks girls’ volleyball team raised their arms in the air before forming a dogpile around their star outside hitter.
History has been achieved.
For the first time in school history, the Sharks can say they are state champions.
Behind a 24-kill performance from Castro, Divine Savior made quick work of the undefeated Bishop McLaughlin Hurricanes in Saturday’s Class 3A state title game at Fort Myers’ Suncoast Credit Union Arena, winning yet another match in straight sets (25-16, 25-16, 25-22).
“I think just all the energy from the crowd and the fact that we were at states for the first time, I just gave it my all out there” Castro said. “We had nothing to lose.”
A fitting line, considering the 19-match win streak Divine Savior reeled off to close off the season, a streak in which they won 53 consecutive sets.
After winning the first two sets comfortably on Saturday, the Sharks (25-1) had to battle to win the final set and claim the title. Divine Savior and Bishop McLaughlin went back-and-forth until the match was tied at 20-20.
Castro, arguably one of the top hitters in Miami-Dade, took control from there. After a Bishop McLaughlin service error, Castro recorded three kills and chipped in a block to contribute on all of Divine Savior’s final four points to win the title. Castro, a Bryant commit, had a .611 hitting efficiency in the title match.
“We knew Bishop was going to be a solid team,” Divine Savior coach Matt Willems said. “Even as a coach, I was waiting for them to put a run up of their own. I was just kind of stunned even myself at how well we were able to dig deep in those first two sets. ... The girls just played fearlessly all match long. I was so proud of the way they played. It honestly didn’t even look like the nerves affected them at all.”
What’s more: Almost everyone on the Sharks’ roster is returning next year. Castro still has one year of high school play left. Three key contributors in setter Isabel Macia, libero Belyssa Cruz and outside hitter Isabella Mendoza were freshmen this year. Middle blocker Sofia Lugo was the lone senior in the starting lineup.
“We’re just starting now,” said Cruz, who finished with 15 digs and led a furious scoring run from the service line late in the first set. “Later on in the future, we know we’re going to do well.”
Divine Savior is one of two area teams to win a girls’ volleyball state title this year, joining Class 8A perennial power St. Thomas Aquinas.