Prior to Friday night’s clash of boys volleyball unbeatens, Celebration – last year’s state runner-up – hadn’t even come close to losing a set all season.
Venice extinguished that streak by coming out quick and taking the first set from the Storm in dominating fashion.
Unfortunately for the Indians, Celebration regained its composure after finding itself down, 3-0, to start the second frame. The Storm charged back in a hurry and only trailed once more for the rest of the night in a 3-1 district win
(21-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-15) in front of a good crowd at The Teepee.
Venice dominated the net game at the beginning of the match and grabbed an 8-4 lead on a block by Phil Price. Celebration fought back and briefly knotted things up at 12-12 on a kill by Bruno Araujo.
A block by Brett Keyso ignited an 8-2 Venice run. The Storm made things interesting by charging back again late, but the Indians held on to hand Celebration its first set loss of the year.
“We wanted to cut them a little bit,” Venice coach Brian Wheatley said. “We cut them...but we saw what they did too.”
Venice’s 3-0 lead to start the second set went away quickly thanks to Araujo, Alejandro Hernandez, Kenneth Alicea and Carlos Mercado. That quartet was responsible for a 12-2 run before Venice came back and briefly took the lead on a kill by Price.
Mercado and Hernandez made sure that Venice lead was short-lived. They picked up a pair of blocks and kills each to snuff any chance of a Venice rally.
“We created some great matchups after that first set and that created better opportunities for us,” Celebration coach Pedro Davila said. “We matched our strong middle against their weak middle, and it worked out in our favor.”
The final two sets were much of the same with Celebration using its size advantage to ice the match.
“This was a good measuring stick to see what we have to do in the next six weeks before we play these guys again in the district tournament,” Wheatley said. “This was the best mens volleyball match we’ve ever had here. It was very competitive, and we’ve got nothing but respect for Celebration High School.”
Davila said the Indians presented his Storm with the biggest challenge they’ve faced so far this season.
“Definitely by far,” he said. “I think it’s the luck of the draw that you have two of the top teams in the state in the same district and unfortunately only one of them is going to move on into the state series. Venice is a great team. I know that when we play these guys again – and hopefully that’s in the district finals – that they’re going to make some adjustments and it’s going to be a bit of a chess game.”
Venice falls to 6-1 on the season and will host Tampa HEAT on Tuesday night. The HEAT beat Venice twice last season.
“They’re one of the top teams in our district, so it should be a very similar match,” Wheatley said.