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Varsity Vibe is a weekly high school report, posted online on Wednesdays and published in the Orlando Sentinel on Thursdays.
A year after the COVID-19 outbreak limited the Tohopekaliga High School girls volleyball team to just five regular season matches, the Tigers are making up for lost time.
Tohopekaliga (8-0) scored a decisive 25-13, 25-13, 25-16 home win against St. Cloud on Tuesday night to wrap up the first Orange Belt Conference team title in the history of a fourth-year Osceola County school that opened in 2018. The victory also set a school record for volleyball wins in a season.
Those achievements were no surprise for a program that has progressed each year and now has nine seniors among its 11 varsity regulars.
“This is the group that has been four years with Toho,” Tohopekaliga coach Eric Capestany said this week. “These kids decided to stick it out and grow together. They know how to win.”
Capestany, the Tigers coach since the school was built, describes senior setter Ariana Warner, who started as a 13-year-old ninth-grader, as the “heart and soul” of his team. Middle blockers Paige Patterson and Josi Capellan also are senior stalwarts. Sophomore Danna Aguilera, who moved from Columbia to Central Florida this year, added a potentially elite finisher to the mix.
Now the challenge is to prove that Tohopekaliga can deal with the power programs in talent-laden Orange County. Opportunity knocks this week when the Tigers host district rival Lake Nona (6-3), the 2020 Class 7A state runner-up, in a Thursday night match scheduled to start at 7.
Lake Nona sits across the county line but is only a seven-mile drive away from Tohopekaliga High.
“I live in Lake Nona myself, so their players are neighborhood girls for me,” Capestany said. “I see them all the time. And a lot of our girls play club (volleyball) with their girls.”
The Lions handled Tohopekaliga relatively easily in a 2020 district final, winning 25-22, 25-12, 25-17. The Tigers did advance to region play for the first time as the district runner-up but were swept by another Orange County power, Windermere,25-14, 25-14, 25-21 in a quarterfinal.
Lake Nona graduated key seniors from last season’s 20-4 team but returned a strong cast, including current seniors Isabella Rujano and Gabriella Karman, and junior Katrina Misra.
“At this point it’s as much a mental challenge as a physical challenge for us,” Capestany said. “We’re still putting it together. But this is definitely a game the kids have circled on the calendar and one they’ll be prepared for.”
West Orange WR to decide
Coveted West Orange senior wide receiver Jayden Gibson will announce his college commitment during a special ceremony inside the school’s gymnasium on Wednesday, Oct. 13 at 2 p.m.
Gibson, who ranks No. 3 among seniors in the Orlando Sentinel Super 60, made the announcement Tuesday on social media.
Among the eight schools in the running are Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Verlon Dorminey of Jacksonville Trinity Christian is poised to become the seventh coach to record 300 Florida high school football victories. His record is 299-77-0 with eight state championships in 31 seasons as the Conquerors head coach. Trinity (3-0) will be tested on Friday with a home game against Clearwater International Academy (3-0), which won 44-7 last week against DeLand.
The all-time wins list is topped by the late great Corky Rogers, who had a 465-84-1 record in 46 seasons as a head coach for Bolles and Lee of Jacksonville.
Lakeland’s Bill Castle is up to 453-94 with a 3-0 start in his 46th year on the job.
The 300-win club also includes former Fort Lauderdale Aquinas coach George Smith (361); the late Gene Cox, who racked up most of his 313 wins at Tallahassee Leon; Byron Walker (315), who is still coaching at Archbishop McCarthy in South Florida; and Orlando icon Bill Gierke, who won 309 games in 38 seasons as a head coach for Evans, Dr. Phillips, Edgewater and Orangewood Christian.
Apopka coach Scott Williams announced on Monday the schedule for the 24-game Metro vs. Florida Challenge boys basketball event. The first day, Wednesday, Nov. 24, features an afternoon appearance by 2A state champ Orlando Christian Prep, reigning 7A state champ Dr. Phillips vs. Lake Highland Prep at 7:30 p.m. and Edgewater vs. Seminole as the night cap at 9.
Day 2, on Nov. 26, includes West Orange vs. CFCA and Olympia vs. 6A champ Bartow.
The Nov. 27 Saturday slate wraps up with recent state champs Oak Ridge vs. Leesburg followed by loaded Windermere Prep vs. Evans.
Former Liberty QB shines
Former Kissimmee Liberty QB Jaelen Ray was named Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference offensive player of the week after leading Rockford University to a 48-13 win vs. Grinnell on Sept. 4.
Ray, a 2019 Liberty graduate, finished 31 of 37 passing for 402 yards and 4 TDs for the Division III program. The 31 completions set a new program record for most in a single game. The passing yards total ranks second-most at the school.
- Undefeated Windermere High (9-0) is a team to watch in this weekend’s 28-team Lake Howell Invitational girls volleyball tournament at the Game Point Events Center in Orlando. Play begins Friday at 5 p.m., leading to a Saturday 11 a.m. championship match.
- The Boone foursome of Suhzanne Lorber, Faith Quails, Arianna Wertheim, and Sophie Basset broke a 2011 school record with a 1:54.7 time for the 200 medley relay during a girls swimming win against Lake Nona on Tuesday. The Braves are 4-0.
- Lake Mary’s Frances Baksa bowled a 280 game in a match last week. That upped her per-game average to 191 for the Rams (6-0).