Miami-Dade High Schools

Westminster Christian Warriors fall in semifinals

All-out effort: Westminster’s Jillian Woodard, center, and Courtney Clausell attempt to block shot.
All-out effort: Westminster’s Jillian Woodard, center, and Courtney Clausell attempt to block shot. For the Miami Herald

It wasn’t necessarily the loss that hurt so much, but the feeling of helplessness when momentum shifts and you can’t get it back.

Leading 20-19 in the first game of its Class 3A state volleyball semifinal, Westminster Christian suddenly turned cold as Clearwater Central Catholic reeled off six of the game’s final seven points. Then it happened again in Game 2, with CCC erasing a three-point deficit by taking 10 of the last 12.

And when the Warriors tried to exorcise the bad vibes by scoring nine of the first 14 points of Game 3, CCC countered with nine of the next 10.

“Good teams force you to not make plays that you would normally make,” Westminster Christian coach Julie Doan said.

The Warriors (21-10) certainly didn’t envision their quest to win back-to-back state titles would come to a halt with a 25-21, 25-21, 25-17 loss.

“I don’t know if frustrating is the word,” libero Jessica Moo Young said. “But it definitely meant a lot to us to be here, because of how hard we worked this year. Then again, they worked really hard, too. You’ve got to give it to them.”

It was a breakthrough victory for the Marauders (25-5), eliminated in the state semifinals each of the past two years. That included last year’s five-set heartbreaker against Orlando First Academy, which would have sent it against the Warriors for the crown.

The Marauders’ roster is top-loaded with five seniors and seven juniors, which surely didn’t hurt as CCC committed just 11 attacking errors on the night. Shea Hamilton paced the winners with 17 kills, and Katie Moore added 14 from her middle blocker position.

CCC will play for the title Wednesday night against Tampa Carrollwood, which ousted Jacksonville Providence in four sets.

Samantha Ceballos led Westminster Christian with 11 kills but needed 41 attempts to get there. Courtney Clausell added seven kills, one more than Isabella Hernandez and Nikkia Benitez.

The Warriors, though, converted just 11 percent of their kill attempts, with CCC recording 62 digs. The Marauders put away 23 percent of their kill attempts.

“I don’t think it was anything real negative on our end,” Doan said. “It was just a lot of good things [the Marauders] were doing.”

Repeating as state champs was never going to be an easy task for the Warriors, who sent three players from last year’s roster to the collegiate level — Sylvia Hernandez (UM), Susie Forbes (Rollins College) and Jenny Ceballos (Palm Beach Atlantic).

Even though five seniors dot this year’s roster, only Samantha Ceballos was a regular contributor. The team stood 8-9 at the end of September before the chemistry finally gelled, winning seven of their final eight regular-season matches to build momentum for the playoffs.

In the end, they made a mark as the first Miami-Dade school in decades to reach the state semifinals in four consecutive seasons.

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