Coral Reef’s girls’ volleyball team got its coach back three weeks ago. The Barracudas seem to have regained their momentum in the same amount of time.
After missing most of the regular season following the birth of twin sons, Coral Reef coach Yasmin Ortiz was again leading her team Tuesday night as it survived a tightly contested five-game victory over Southwest 25-16, 16-25, 25-22, 20-25, 17-15 in a Region 4-8A quarterfinal at Miami Palmetto.
“I made them a promise I would be back for districts, and I kept it,” said Ortiz, who is in her seventh season coaching the Barracudas and led them to state in 2012. “My doctor isn’t too happy I came back so quickly, but I had to do it for these girls.”
Coral Reef (23-4) advanced to the regional semifinals for the third time in the past five seasons and will host last year’s Class 8A state semifinalist, Ferguson, next Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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Ferguson beat Killian on Tuesday night, and last season eliminated Coral Reef from the playoffs in the regional quarterfinals.
Rios paced the Barracudas with 21 assists and 10 kills as Coral Reef and Southwest went back and forth, splitting the first four games.
Coral Reef appeared ready to secure the match in the fifth, leading 14-11. But Southwest’s top hitter, Sheyenne Sullivan, served solidly three consecutive times to help the Eagles tie the match at 14.
Senior Trina Malone put Coral Reef in front 15-14 with a kill just before Southwest tied it at 15 when another Barracudas kill attempt went wide. Rios smashed a ball to put Coral Reef back in front 16-15. Malone, who finished with seven kills, recorded the seventh on the match-winning point.
“We just told each other to settle down and make sure to keep the ball in play there at the end,” senior Kristine Rios said. “Southwest has really big blockers, and we weren’t used to seeing that this season.”
Junior Lexi Mesa’s sharp serving helped Coral Reef throughout the match. She finished with 15 kills, three blocks and two aces. Senior Janel Kemp also had seven kills, and junior libero Danielle De Souza paced the defense with 25 digs.
▪ Region 4-8A quarterfinals — Ransom d. LaSalle 25-15, 25-11, 25-16: Caroline Sklaver is the only senior on a Ransom Everglades team that is trying to become the first girls’ volleyball squad since Gainesville in 2003-2004 to repeat as Class 4A state champions.
Sklaver, a 6-1 middle blocker and setter, had a match-high 14 kills as host Ransom swept LaSalle.
“We lost a lot of people last year,” Sklaver said of graduation losses. “We have to fight for it — everyone is out for us.”
Ransom (25-4) is now within four wins of a state title, but the competition is about to get much tougher than LaSalle (13-13), which led just once — at 1-0 — in any of Tuesday’s sets.
Next up for Ransom is Gulliver next Tuesday in a regional quarterfinal. Ransom, which beat Gulliver 3-2 and 3-0 this year, has knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.
If Ransom survives again, it could face Pine Crest in the regional finals. Pine Crest is the only 4A team to beat Ransom this year, earning a 3-0 win on Sept. 23.
And still looming as a possible state-final rematch is Orlando’s Lake Highland Prep, which took the first two sets from Ransom last year before losing 16-14 in the decisive fifth set.
▪ Region 4-8A quarterfinals — Flanagan d. Miami Beach 25-17, 27-25, 25-17: Flanagan erased memories of a first-round regional quarterfinal exit against Miami Beach last year by walking into the Hi-Tides gym and defeating Beach in straight games.
The Falcons (15-7) advanced to their first regional semifinal in 10 years, where they will get a rematch with district rival West Broward next week.
If there was a turning point, it came late in the second game when Beach (15-6) led 20-15 before Flanagan went on a 12-5 run to close out the game and take a 2-0 advantage.
West Broward has won all three previous meetings but the two regular-season matches went the five-game distance.
The Falcons were led by senior Daniella Rapaglia, who had 20 digs, 17 kills and four aces. Caytley Ray (12 kills, two aces, 17 digs) and freshman Meaghyn DeValk (37 assists, six digs) also contributed to the victory.
▪ Region 4-8A quarterfinals — Ferguson d. Killian 25-20, 25-18, 25-20: Ferguson, a state semifinalist a year ago, embarked on another postseason trek with a straight-set home victory over Killian. The Falcons (23-5) advanced to the regional semifinals against Coral Reef.
Outside hitters Kourtney Lesperance and Michelle Cuervo each had 10 kills. Lesperance added five aces and six digs, and Cuervo also had nine digs and an ace.
“When we need a go-to hit, those two have been the ones leading the team in kills,” Ferguson coach Greg Shanower said. “To me, they’re the leaders on the floor.”
Junior Natalie Hoyos registered four kills, seven digs and a game-high 16 assists.
Killian (17-7) is eliminated after its first appearance in regionals since 2009.
▪ Region 4-6A quarterfinals — Mourning d. Doral Academy 25-23, 25-12, 25-15: Mourning’s Mary Shelow and DiDi Dandridge overpowerd Doral’s defense.
Shelow had 12 kills, 14 digs, an ace, a block and an assist in the victory. Dandridge had seven kills and a block, Rony Edri had nine kills, and setter Amanda Rey had 19 assists, five aces, and three kills for the Sharks (21-3).
Mourning will play at TERRA in a 6A regional semifinal.
▪ Class 6A quarterfinal — TERRA d. Miami Springs 25-19, 25-20, 25-22: Rachel Santacruz 9 kills, 3 aces. Grace Cope 5 kills, ace, block. Katelyn Barrow 29 assists. TERRA 21-4
▪ Class 4A quarterfinals — Gulliver d. Pace 25-18, 25-16, 25-14: Caro Mengotti 9 kills, 8 aces, 6 digs. Blanca Mengotti 7 kills, 4 aces, 4 digs. Sarah Lobo 24 assists, 3 digs, 2 kills. Natalie Mouawad 2 aces, 7 digs.
▪ Class 2A quarterfinals — Divine Savior Academy d. Colonial Christian 25-12, 25-12, 25-14: Alejandra Rodriguez 15 kills, 11 aces, 11 digs. Vicki Caldera 13 kills, 8 aces, 9 digs. Andrea Santiago 15 digs, Ana Sofia Diaz 21 assists, 5 digs.