For the Lyons Creek Middle School boys’ volleyball team, a runner-up finish in the county tournament was a source of pride.
The Coconut Creek based-Lions won 11 of their 12 matches this season, and despite a hard-fought loss to Driftwood Middle School (also 11-1) in the finals, the squad enjoyed great success. They were a force to be reckoned with in the Broward championship showdown as the two games went 21-16 and 21-11 in the Cardinals’ favor.
“We [went] far, and we really held our own against [Driftwood]. This was very cool,” Lyons Creek coach Ralph Rubiano said. “I am very proud of how the boys held up. We only had two back from last year, and look how far we got. As long as they are athletic, willing to listen and do things the right way, they can accomplish whatever they set out to do.”
Rubiano was thrilled with the team’s willingness to learn basically from scratch.
“They were just regular boys who never played a game of volleyball,” said Rubiano, who has been coaching middle school sports in Broward County since 1999. This was his fifth season at Lyons Creek.
Eighth-grader Jack Popovics led the way in the finals with nine service points, while seventh-grader Colby Schmitz chipped in with five service points. Popovics and Gustavo Torres, also an eighth-grader, were the lone returning players from last year.
The season was memorable for Lyons Creek in that it was the first time the Lions reached the finals in the post-season play. The title encounter took place at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale.
Driftwood, meanwhile, was also making its first appearance in the championship game.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first game of the championships as Joshua Flores served up five points. Lyons Creek tied it up at 5-5 on two serves by Colby Schmitz. Driftwood’s Xavier Young then served four consecutive points to give the Cardinals the lead for good at 11-5 en route to a 21-16 victory.
In the second game, Flores added four service points, and Komari Lumsden and Manuel Buroz had eight service points – four in each game – to pace the Cardinals, who coasted to a 21-11 win in the second game.
Driftwood Middle School boys’ volleyball coach Linda Gancitano thought it would be a rebuilding year. There were no returning players on a Cardinals’ team that reached the Broward County middle school playoff tournament final four last year.
The road to the championship included a win over the defending champions from Falcon Cove. The Cardinals knocked out the Falcons in the second round of this year’s playoffs. Falcon Cove had previously handed Driftwood (11-1) its only loss of the regular season.
The Cardinals needed three sets to get past Glades Middle in the semifinals, 21-14, 21-23 and 21-11.
Gary Curreri can be reached at SportsCom5@aol.com.