With 20 district tournaments in eight classifications scheduled for this week, two-time defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas and Ferguson are ready to begin their journey to the state tournament based on last week’s conference titles.
Ferguson looked impressive in its’ 25-19, 25-21 victory district rival Southwest Thursday night in the GMAC final at host Coral Reef High School.
The Falcons (21-1), who made it to the state semifinals last season before losing in five sets to Jupiter, made history by winning their fourth consecutive GMAC title. The program is the first to win four straight, breaking Sunset’s three straight in the 1980s.
“At the beginning of the season we established goals we wanted to accomplish this year,” said Falcons coach Greg Shanower. “Going up to Orlando and trying to compete with the big teams up there and we won the Dr. Phillips Tournament.
“We wanted to finish first in our district and we obtained that and winning GMAC was another goal. We have three more goals to go.”
And those are: winning district, region and state titles. First up is the District 15-9A tournament that begins Tuesday at Braddock where the Falcons are expected to meet Southwest in the final on Thursday night. The Falcons have won their last three meetings, two during the regular season and in the GMAC tournament.
“I think our last three goals are obtainable if we play at our best,” Shanower said. “We tried to schedule the best teams we could to prepare us for the post-season. There are a couple teams in Orlando that are powerhouses.”
The Falcons only loss came during the tournament to Ocala Trinity Catholic in pool play which they avenged in bracket play.
“Even though we are going to be pretty young next year, we are still going to keep on scheduling those hard schools, it brings out the best in us,” Shanower said.
At GMAC, the Falcons were led by outside hitter and Quinapiac University-bound Michelle Cuervo, who had 14 kills and 6 digs. Younger sister Melanie Cuervo had 21 assists and 2 aces. Grace Ieremia had 4 kills and 5 blocks.
Shanower, who has built the volleyball program into Dade’s best public school program in 11 years, didn’t know what to expect at the start of the season.
“They really have gone beyond my expectations of where I thought we would be,” Shanower said. “I knew we had a strong team, but I really didn’t expect a lot of the younger girls to do much this season because they are young. But they stepped up and fit in with the more experienced seniors. They really helped us achieve and were key contributors.”
Another factor that sets the team apart is the camaraderie which has been there since Day One, Shanower said.
“It’s always been one of our strengths, it is the way the program is, we are family,” Shanower said. “The girls get along really well on and off the court.
“We have been lucky over the years. We have had a great group of girls. Each group has brought something different to the table. Last year was one of my most talented teams. What this team lacks in talent they make up for in heart. They still have a lot of talent. The heart is the difference in this team. They all really want it badly.”
BCAA BIG 8 VOLLEYBALL
St. Thomas Aquinas continues to steamroll its’ way through the 2016 season while making more history.
The Raiders won the conference title for the fourth consecutive season. No other team has won the BCAA Big 8 title since the tournament’s inception.
The Raiders defeated Cypress Bay, 25-18, 25-17, 25-23 in a game that was rescheduled because of Hurricane Matthew.
In early Big 8 games, the Raiders spoiled the debut of Everglades that qualified for its’ first Big 8 in the program’s history, in the quarterfinals. The Raiders eliminated Monarch in the semifinals.
Pepperdine-bound Brook Bauer and Emma Dixon each had 12 kills. Allison Marble had 14 kills. Bauer and Marble each had seven digs. Libero Paula Cerame had 22 digs. Derry Costigan had 26 assists and Kelsey O’Loughlin also had 22 assists and seven service points.
The Raiders are hoping to become only the third Broward team to win three consecutive state titles. Cardinal Gibbons and Pine Crest were the others.
While longtime Hall of Fame coach Lisa Zielinski was not happy with her team’s unforced errors and lack of focus, there is no disputing the Raiders have raised the bar this year for competition. The Raiders have not lost a set to a high school team in Florida this season. The Raiders’ two losses came at the Durango Classic in Las Vegas.
The Raiders had one final tune-up with a 3-0 win over West Broward on Friday. The Raiders won 25-15, 25-6, 25-11. Kelsey O’Laughlin had 22 assists and 4 digs. Emma Dixon had 5 blocks and 6 kills. The Raiders finished their regular season with a 23-2 record.
DISTRICT TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
District 11-9A: at Monarch, Monday, 5 p.m.; Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 12-9A: at Western, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 13-9A: at West Broward, Tuesday, 4 p.m., Thursday, 6 p.m.
District 14-9A: at Miami Beach, Tuesday, 6 p.m., Thursday 7:30 p.m.
District 15-9A: at Braddock, Tuesday, 6 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 16-9A: at Varela, Tuesday, 7 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 14-8A: at St. Thomas Aquinas, Tuesday, 5 p.m., Thursday, 6 p.m.
District 15-8A: at Hollywood Hills, Tuesday, 6 p.m., Thursday, 6 p.m.
District 16-8A: at Mourning, Tuesday, 5 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 15-7A: at Carol City, Tuesday, 6 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 16-7A: at TERRA, Tuesday, 6 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 16-6A: at Pompano Beach, Tuesday, 5 p.m., Thursday, 6 p.m.
District 14-5A: at Calvary Christian, Tuesday, 4 p.m., Friday, 6 p.m.
District 15-5A: at LaSalle, Tuesday, 4 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 16-5A: at Westminster Christian, Monday, 3:30 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 6-4A: at Sagemont, Monday, 5 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 7-4A: at SLAM, Monday, 7 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 8-4A: at Palmer Trinity, Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., Friday, 7 p.m.
District 8-3A: at Divine Savior, Wednesday, 6 p.m., Thursday, 7 p.m.
District 8-2A: at Miami Christian, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m., Friday, 6:30 p.m.