Deep into Broward's three-day FCAT sports freeze (or near-freeze, at least), there was quite a boys' volleyball showdown Tuesday, with host Cardinal Gibbons knocking off rival St. Thomas Aquinas -- the same thing that happened in last year's District 9 final.
The match, score-wise, wasn't overwhelmingly close -- the Chiefs won three straight (25-20, 25-17, 25-20) after dropping the first game 25-23 -- but there was plenty of talent out there: The Raiders (2-1), even without senior outside hitter Tommy Samartino (ankle), saw some spirited play from senior hitters Lane Porter, Matthew Lunny, Kevin Garbizo and others, while the Chiefs got strong stuff from seniors Tyler Hall and J.T. Downs, juniors Nick Williams and Kenny Veliky, and several others from their 4-0 squad.
But the one who stood out: senior setter Austin Belt, who basically was Gibbons' Steve Nash -- not just because of his assist total (he had 40 of them, the same amount he had against South Broward last week), but also because of his cleverness. Many times he fooled St. Thomas' front line, sending the ball over the net instead of at one of his teammates, or vice versa.
And then there were all those assists...
"I mean, I love Austin -- he's a great setter," said Williams, who had 20 kills Tuesday. "He really spreads the ball around great, keeps the other team guessing. He doesn't go to the same place over and over again, so the other team doesn't know what's coming. It helps all the hitters -- getting the ball, and have less blockers up, because he spreads it around so much."
After the season -- one in which Belt hopes to place another state-championship banner alongside Gibbons' one from 2005 -- Belt could get some volleyball-related accolades. Then, he said, he's headed to the University of Alabama.
For more time on the court?
"No, just going for college," Belt said.
Maybe, but a look at Alabama's website reveals: the school does have intramural volleyball...