After coming within one win of going to state only to fall short twice in the past three years, it was time to see if the Belen Jesuit boys’ volleyball team could finally break through.
The Wolverines did just that on Thursday night when they traveled to Palmetto High School for a regional final contest and swept the Panthers in three sets 25-20, 25-16, 25-19.
When the final point was recorded, Belen players stormed the court in a wild celebration with their fans as it meant they had punched their first ticket to the state volleyball finals.
The Wolverines (24-4) will take on either Winter Springs or Orlando Freedom (which plays Friday night) in a state quarterfinal matchup on May 10 at 4 p.m. at Boca Raton High School.
“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work,” said Belen junior outside hitter Joseph Perez, who led the way with 13 kills and 3 blocks. “We came up short last year and a few years before that so we knew we just had to keep plugging away and eventually we would break through to states, and tonight was our night. We made history for Belen boys’ volleyball tonight, and it feels amazing.”
Belen got off to fast starts in all three sets as Palmetto (19-8) never had the lead at any point in the match.
The only time the Panthers found a little momentum was when they rallied from six points down early on in the third set to tie the score at 13.
But the Wolverines then scored the next five points to retake control of the match before closing things out.
Eric Diaz (nine kills, seven digs, three aces) and Herman Suarez (two blocks, 22 assists and five digs) also were major contributors.
“This program has never been to where they’re going now and you can see the excitement on their faces out there,” Belen coach Freideman Sifontes said. “They had that goal in mind [to get to state] since day one. We talked about it, they stayed focused, and tonight they did just a great job of coming out here and executing.”
BASEBALL RECORD SET
▪ Riviera Prep 14, Everglades Prep 0: Eric Fernandez was the winning pitcher when Riviera Prep. clobbered Everglades Prep. 14-0 on Wednesday.
Fernandez struck out six and allowed just two hits, but it was what he did at the plate that made history.
Just an eighth-grader, Fernandez made history when he went 1 for 2 at the plate giving him 21 hits in 16 games. The 21 hits ties the all-time FHSAA state record for hits in a season by an eighth-grader.
Marc Quarrie (2 for 3, three RBI) and Nick Flowers (2 for 4, RBI) also contributed to the win as Riviera improved to 9-7.
▪ Belen Jesuit 4, Ft. Myers Bishop Verot 0: WP – Mario Fernandez CG shutout; Dorian Gonzalez 3-4, 2 2Bs; 2 RBIs; Gio Cueto 2-2, 2B; Lucky 2-3, 2R; Lou DeGoti 1-3, 2B; Robert Curbelo 2-3; Armando Albert (1-4, R; BEL: 18-4
▪ Palmetto 10, TERRA 3: WP – Anthony Ortega (5-0); Ryan Herskowitz 1-2, HR, R, 3 RBI; Andrew Garcia 3-4, 2B, 2R, RBI; Gabriel Vega 1-2, 2R; PAL: 15-6.