BY WALTER VILLA
The boys’ volleyball state championship, which will be played out Friday and Saturday at Fort Lauderdale’s Pine Crest High School, features eight teams – six of them from South Florida – and no clear favorite.
Tampa’s Berkeley Prep beat Longwood Lyman for the 2014 title, but both of those schools failed to make it back to state. Also missing is Orlando’s Dr. Phillips, which was 25-0 before getting upset in the district playoffs.
Of the eight teams that will be at Pine Crest this weekend, only
two - Timber Creek (2009) and Bishop Moore (2010, 2012) - have won state titles. Both of those schools are from Orlando.
“It’s up for grabs,” Palmetto Coach Chris Kallinosis said of the tournament. “Usually there’s a strong favorite or two. But I think there are at least five teams who have a legitimate shot.”
Palmetto (19-7) got perhaps a tough draw by having to face Bishop Moore (20-5) in Friday’s quarterfinals. Bishop Moore swept Berkeley Prep to get here. But a further look reveals that Palmetto beat Bishop Moore 25-15, 25-22 during the regular season. Bishop Moore also lost to Wellington, a team Palmetto beat.
In addition, Palmetto has 6-6 senior outside hitter Devin Decker, a player Kallinosis considers to be the best in the county.
“He’s been starting for us all four years,” the coach said.”He’s a force at the net. He’s our captain and a big reason why we are at state.”
Wellington (18-8) takes on Mourning (24-6) in the other part of Palmetto’s side of the bracket. Mourning beat Wellington 2-1 earlier this season.
Mourning has won eight matches in a row. During that streak, the Sharks beat Southwest and Palmetto, avenging earlier losses to those teams. They also beat Berkeley Prep.
But the Sharks, who lost to Bishop Moore in the 2013 state quarterfinals and Lyman in last year’s state semifinals, were 0-3 against Orlando teams this season, losing to Dr. Phillips, Bishop Moore and Apopka.
The other half of the bracket features Monarch (21-2) against Archbishop McCarthy (18-8) and Timber Creek (22-4) vs. Columbus (24-2).
Monarch is the surprise team of the tournament. The Knights went 2-13 in 2012 and 3-13 in 2013 before posting a winning record last year.
This year, they won a district title for the first time in program history, but they have yet to play a team outside of South Florida.
They lost in straight sets to Wellington in their only matchup against a team currently at state.
McCarthy is back at state for the first time since 2012. From 2009 to 2012, the Mavericks lost to the eventual state champion four years in a row: Timber Creek, Bishop Moore, Seminole Ridge and Bishop Moore.
In terms of common opponents with Monarch, McCarthy has the edge having beaten Wellington 3-1.
Columbus, which reached the state semifinals in 2012, may have the toughest challenge of all the local teams in its matchup with Timber Creek, which is led by 6-5 junior Michael MacGillivray, a Division I prospect according to his coach.
McCarthy Coach Karen Frank, who has seen every team at state play this season, believes it will be a “close” tournament.
“At the beginning of the year, everyone was talking that it would be a Lyman-Dr. Phillips final, and neither of those teams are here,” she said. “I think all eight teams have the ability to advance to the final.”