Sunday, April 29, 2012

From St. Thomas Coach Michael Goldenberg

I would like to thank all the fans and supporters of St Thomas Aquinas team for coming and supporting us during the whole season and in yesterday's final game.
The boys played their hearts out , and unfortunately we came up short of taking it all.
Now, after the States, it is a time to relax, recover, analyze and getting ready to prepare for next year.
I wish to all students- athletes, from all teams, a strong finish in the rest of their school year. Good luck in whatever you do and whenever you go this summer!
Michael Goldenberg

St. Thomas vs. Gulliver Final / Boys 4/28/12

For additional photos for this game:

Photograhy By:
Don Hunsinger

It’s a 4-peat: Ransom wins title again

Competing in their brand-new athletic facility, the Ransom Everglades girls knocked off Winter Park 8-5.

Special To The Miami Herald

What’s the best way to break in a new athletic facility? Win a state championship in it.
Hosting the state championship tournament for the first time, Ransom Everglades’ girls water polo team won its fourth consecutive state championship Saturday afternoon, defeating Winter Park 8-5 in front of 600 loyal fans, who braved the rainy and damp conditions.
Saturday was the third meeting between Ransom and Winter Park (26-5) in the state championship game. Ransom nearly mirrored last year’s outcome — an 8-5 victory in Orlando. The Raiders also won in 2010 with a 14-5 win over the Wildcats and the 2009 title against Boca Raton St. Andrews in Boca Raton.
The Raiders (21-2) fans chanted “it’s a four-peat” as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the girls pushed their coaches into the pool and dived in with them, turning toward the home crowd holding up four fingers.
Ransom coach Eric Lefebvre said that the win was the culmination of a lot things.
“We dealt with so much this year,” the drenched Lefebvre said. “From the opening of the pool back in February, to the high expectations, to early season struggles that made some people doubt us. These girls fought through everything and lived up to everything that was placed on them. The most impressive part is they finished the season exactly how they wanted to.
“I told my school’s principal: this is the sweetest water I’ve ever tasted.”
The Raiders, who lost to Winter Park during the regular season this year, took a quick 1-0 lead after a goal by Sofia Carrera-Justiz 23 seconds into the game. Ransom held that lead up until the final minute of the first period, as senior goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson completely stymied the Wildcat offense.
The Raiders built a 2-1 lead at the end of first and extended it to 5-1 thanks to a pair of goals by Gaby Serure in the second period. Johnson’s presence in the net left Winter Park confused as to where their next shot was going to come from.
Johnson finished the game with eight saves and an assist while the team totaled five blocked shots. Serure finished with a game-high four goals and one assist and Sofia Rivas, Dana Brown and Chelsea Johnson — Ashleigh’s sister — each had one goal.
Lefebvre said that having Johnson in the net makes the entire defense better.
“The girls know that there’s someone behind that can clean up everything,” Lefebvre said. “They can be more aggressive and take more chances. Plus, her effort and energy on defense carries over to everyone else because it makes them want to be a part of what she’s doing back there.”
After Ransom took a 5-2 lead into the second half, Winter Park would never get any closer than three — even though it began to become more aggressive on both sides of the ball.

Gulliver boys win state water polo

Special to The Miami Herald

Gulliver rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to defeat Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 11-9 in the boys’ water polo state championship game at the Ransom Everglades Aquatic Center on Saturday.
The Raiders (28-2) claimed their first title since 2007.
After the match, Gulliver’s team jumped into the pool in celebration with its nearly 250 fans going wild in the stands.On the road to the crown, Gulliver notched a 12-7 comeback victory over two-time defending state champion Boca Raton St. Andrews — which defeated the Raiders in the 2011 final — in Friday’s state quarterfinal..
Gulliver trailed 6-2 at halftime, but scored four consecutive goals in the second half to tie it at 6. The momentum swing was led by Dillon Mermell, who scored two of his team-high three goals during the run, then by Andreas Guerra as he scored the tying goal.
St. Thomas retook the lead with 12 seconds left in the third to go ahead 7-6 at the end of the period. Then the teams traded goals in the early part of the fourth quarter before Gulliver scored back-to-back goals by Jonathan Chow and Alexander Guerra to take a 9-8 lead.
Gulliver senior Carlos Heros, Chow and Guerra each had two goals.
Gulliver made one specific change during the intermission.
Carlos Heros was moved from an offensive position to a defensive one. Once Gulliver did that, he shut Aquinas down, similar to what he’s been doing to teams all year.
St. Thomas’ Bruce Espinoza tied the score at 9 with 3:41 left, but Gulliver got a goal from Alexander Guerra – his second in a two-minute span – and the game sealer by Hunter Pelletier.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Finals: Aquinas stats vs. Gulliver

Gulliver 11    STA 9

Anthony Pasarin - 1 steal
Bruce Espinoza - 4 goals, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 ejection drawn
RJ Moore - 3 steals, 1 ejection drawn
Eric Goldenberg - 3 goals, 2 assists, 1 steal, 5 ejections and 2 penalties drawn
Max Lettau - 2 goals, 1 steal, 1 ejection drawn

Controversial high school eligibility bill on way to governor after it passes Senate

The Senate approved the bill, which has been criticized by the FHSAA.

A controversial bill that would loosen the Florida High School Athletic Association's rules on athletic eligibility for transfer students is poised to become law.

The Senate passed Bill 1704, which was amended to mirror a bill (1403) approved by the House last week, by a 21-18 vote Thursday in Tallahassee. It now will go to Gov. Rick Scott for his review.

The bill states that students who switch schools during an academic year will remain eligible for athletics as long as their transfer is approved by their public-school district or the private school that receives them.

If the FHSAA rules a student was recruited or violated other regulations, it can fine the school, sanction guilty coaches and/or move the program to a higher competitive classification. But the student may not be declared ineligible for recruiting violations unless they are found to have falsified enrollment or eligibility documents or accepted impermissible benefits.

The FHSAA and its allies voiced opposition throughout the legislative session, which will end Friday, but all but conceded defeat this week.

"It's going to turn recruiting rules upside down," Roger Dearing, the FHSAA's executive director, said. "It's going to be a difficult transition. Unfortunately, the ability for coaches who are willing to recruit to use kids is going to increase."

Tallahassee attorney Jon Moyle, who has represented clients declared ineligible by the association, recently wrote an editorial for the Tallahassee Democrat in support of the bill, sponsored by State Rep. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland). He said the FHSAA system fails to provide true due process.

Current regulations allow athletes to appeal an ineligibility finding to one of four FHSAA appeals committees. If denied, they can take their case to the association's board of directors. Critics say that makes the FHSAA judge and jury.

"Under the FHSAA system, . . . a student is presumed guilty and must prove his or her innocence," Moyle wrote. "In our democratic society, the accuser typically has the burden of proving its case."

Dearing said that criticism is unfounded.

"An analogy to our policy would be a speeding ticket," he said. "You are found to have broken a law, but you have the right to go to the judge and appeal. A student-athlete who does not meet all of the policies and bylaws of eligibility is ruled ineligible. They then can appeal to seek a waiver of our rules if they have extenuating circumstances.

"With this bill, any student who transfers will be automatically eligible. I'm afraid it's going to be rampant."

One controversial component of the original Senate Bill, passages that would recognize the controversial Sunshine Independent Athletic Association as an official governing body, is no longer included. SIAA schools, though, may still get key items on their wish list.

The bill states the FHSAA must permit member schools to schedule games against schools outside the association.

 "The ultimate goal is for us to be able to play the schools nearby us," said Tony Atkins, coach of SIAA boys basketball power West Oaks of Orlando. "That, and be able to go to major tournaments, like the City of Palms [in Fort Myers], Kingdom of the Sun [in Ocala] and the ESPN Rise national tournament [in the Washington, D.C., area]."

Staff writer Kathleen Haughney contributed to this report.

Congratulations To The 2012 State High School Champs

Girls:  Ransom Everglades

Boys:  Gulliver Prep  

Semis & Finals Today

Gulliver wins boys state title 11 - 9

*** RANSOM GIRLS WIN STATES 8 - 5 over Winter Park ***

Today's Schedule 


Semi Finals: 

Winter Park 17   Westminster 7

Ransom 9   Lake Nona 3


Semi Finals:  

St. Thomas 16   Winter Park 12

Gulliver Prep 12   Lake Nona 1

St. Thomas Aquinas 

boys advance to state final

Lettau Steps Ups Huge For The Raiders

St. Thomas Aquinas boys 16 – Winter Park 12

St. Thomas Aquinas will compete for the state championship, thanks to a big third quarter in its 16-12 win over Winter Park in a Saturday state semifinal game.

Saturday's game was tightly contested well into the third quarter, when two Winter Park goals brought the Wildcats within one goal of the Raiders.

With the score 9-8, Max Lettau took over for St. Thomas.

Lettau's three goals — the better part of four unanswered St. Thomas scores — took control of the game and advanced the Raiders into a 6 p.m. state final.

"We got to within one and we had a couple of really good chances right after that," Winter Park coach Barry Creighton said. "We didn't hit the shots."

The Raiders will play Gulliver Prep in the championship game.

"That was tight," St. Thomas Aquinas coach Michael Goldenberg said. "I think the individual skills of a few players helped us — that was the difference.

"I wish we had a season full of games like that. We have a big one now."

Winter Park ends their season with a 25-5 record.

"We kind of did what we wanted to do," Creighton said. "A couple of mistakes on offense and we gave them some easy counter-attacks. That's the difference. They're really good and you can only afford a few mistakes against them and we had a few too many."

Westminster girls lose first game of the season in state semifinal

Westminster Academy's first loss was the one that ended its season.

The Lions (20-1) lost to Winter Park 17-7 Saturday morning at Ransom Everglades.

Winter Park girls advanced to the state final against the Lake Nona (Orlando) and Ransom semifinal winner..

Ashley Tobin had six goals for the Wildcats, who were able to shut down Westminster ace Caroline Israels with triple-teams.

Israels still had 29 shot attempts, but she only scored six goals in the game. Israels assisted on Westminster's only other goal, scored by Coral Estella.

"They're basically a one [player] team," Winter Park coach Barry Creighton said. "If they were going to beat us, it was going to have to be the other girls."

The junior scored five of her six goals from mid-pool or beyond, but when on the offensive side of the pool, she was shut down by swarming defense and stellar goal play from Winter Park's Jessica Honeycutt.

"I thought it was kind of weird [that Israels was triple teamed]," Westminster coach Denise Israels said. "Being as good as they are, they didn't need to do that, but she squeaked out some goals."

Wesminister only graduates one starter, goalie Brooke Carlton, who had an admirable final game for the Lions.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Aquinas Looks Strong In Crushing Win

St. Thomas 19   Oviedo 5 

The Raiders looked impressive in their quest for the state title with an old fashion whipping of Oveido.

Bruce "Difference Maker" Espinoza who missed the previous meeting between the schools is healthy and back in the line up for Aquinas. As a matter of fact, the three close games the Raiders lost this season were ones Espinoza missed while rehabbing a sore shoulder. Since Espinoza's return STA hasn't lost a game.

The Raiders top scorers were 2011 Player of the Year RJ Moore and freshmen phenom Eric Goldenberg with 7 & 6 goals respectively.

STA's record improved to 21-3


Anthony Pasarin - 4 assists, 1 block

Bruce Espinoza - 3 goals, 5 assists, 3 steals
RJ Moore - 7 goals, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block
Eric Goldenberg - 6 goals, 5 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Oliver Romanelli - 1 goal, 2 steals, 
Max Lettau - 2 goals, 1 block
Logan Vaverek - 1 assist, 1 block
Drew Burga - 1 assist, 1 steal
Mike Walk - 8 blocks, 1 assist

States Update


Westminster 17   Oviedo 9

Ransom 18   Boca 3 

Lake Nona 21   Dr. Krop 1

Winter Park 19   Hollywood Hills 6

Semi Finals Tomorrow: 

Westminster vs. Winter Park
Vegas Line: Winter Park  - 12 1/2

Ransom vs. Lake Nona
Vegas Line: Ransom  - 5


St. Thomas 19   Oviedo 5

Winter Park 20   Cypress Bay 12

Lake Nona 16   Miami 5

Gulliver 12   St. Andrews 7

Semi Finals Tomorrow: 

St. Thomas vs. Winter Park
Vegas Line: St. Thomas  - 5 1/2

Gulliver Prep vs. Lake Nona
Vegas Line: Gulliver  - 4

Lady Bobcats bounced out of States by defending champs

Boca loses 18-3 to Ransom Everglades

Ashleigh and Chelsea Johnson of Ransom Everglades were too much for the Bobcats to handle in the 2012 quarter final match between Boca and R.E.. 

The defending state champion Raiders move on to semi finals vs. Lake Nona tomorrow in Miami. Lady Bobcat junior captain Keri Ciancio scored all three goals for the Bobcats in the loss.

 Boca finishes their best season ever winning the District Championship, Palm Beach County Championship, Regionals as well as finishing 7th in the state. This was the Lady Bobcats first invitation to the States since water polo started in Boca Raton. A major accomplishment for the girls and their coaches Jose Adames and Ryan Heigel.  

Keri Ciancio ends the season as the leading scorer in Palm Beach County & the 3rd leading scorer in the State of Florida.

LIVE: State Water Polo -- St. Thomas, WA win; Boca, Hollywood Hills lose

The outcome was not a surprise — favorites St. Thomas Aquinas moved to the final four of the FHSAA boys water polo tournament — but the scoreline was unexpected.

Aquinas coach Michael Goldenberg said he expected a tighter game than his squad's 19-5 win over Oviedo on Friday afternoon, especially after they had such a tough time with the Lions earlier in the season.

"Before the game was a lot closer," Oviedo coach Ryan Donnell said. "We ran a different defense, but this time they were much more prepared for. This time they had a good idea of what we were going to do. We just had bad shots."

Aquinas could not lament shot selection. Both RJ Moore and Eric Goldenberg outscored Oviedo on their own. Moore had nine goals, seven in the first half alone, and Goldenberg netted six in the first two quarters.

"It was good to get [that game] out of the way," coach Goldenberg said. "We need the competition. That kind of game was unfortunately lopsided, but we were able to get everybody in. We were able to do a few things that we would like to use against other teams."

Thaxter Hensley, Justin Gray, Albert Persampiere and Andrew Bolen scored fore Oviedo in the loss. The Lions ended their season with an even 12-12 record.

St. Thomas improved to 21 and 3. Tomorrow they will play Winter Park in the state semifinal.

Girls: Ransom Everglades 18   Boca Raton 3
Boca Raton's magic run to the state finals ended abruptly in the round of eight, as the Johnson sisters of Ransom-Everglades downed the Bobcats 18-3.

Chelsea Johnson scored 10 goals for the Raiders and her elder sister Ashleigh put in a stellar first half in goal, then scored two goals as an outfield player.

For Boca, who earned a spot in the finals by finally downing their rival St. Andrew's, there was little regret.
"We played hard and we did everything we wanted to execute," head coach Jose Adames said. "We were just beaten by the better team."

Junior set Keri Ciancio scored all three goals for Boca Raton, who ends their season with a 16-9 record.

"We had an awesome season," Adames said. "We executed our game plan, they executed theirs and that was the outcome."

Westminster 17   Oviedo 9
Westminster Academy downed Oviedo 17-9 and moved themselves in the semi-finals tomorrow.

"The girls didn't follow the game plan — to keep two girls on [Israels] at all times." Oviedo coach Ryan Donnell said. "But we weren't able to position themselves on the double team."
Just as Israels was the focal point of the Westminster offense, Karen Thomas scored seven goals for Oviedo in the loss.
"She had a great game," Donnell said. "That's a four-year player, four-year starter, but that's about it."
For Westminster coach Denise Israels, advancing to the final four was the season's goal.
"My game plan at the beginning was to figure out what their defense was going to be," Denise Israels said. "Once we figured that out in the second quarter, we were able to capitalize on it."
Israels had some fantastic individual efforts in the game.
Israels was rolled (ejected) from the game late in the fourth quarter for her third major foul, but by then, the score was well settled.
Westminster improved to 20-0 on the season.

Winter Park 19   Hollywood Hills 6

Winter Park, one of the favorites to claim the state crown, had no problem dispatching Hollywood Hills for the second time in three years, 19-6.

Nine players scored goals for Winter Park, which was paced by five-goal performances from both Ashley Tobin and Kelly Martin.

The Khalil sisters were the only goal scorers for the Spartans — Julliette Khalil scored four goals, with Samantha Khalil adding two.

"Two years ago, when we got stuck playing them in states, we lost 26-6, so at least we held them to 19 this team," Hollywood Hills coach Kristin Rodriguez said. "They could probably play with their eyes closed and still know where each other are — what can you do?"

Despite the lopsided final score, it was, in fact, the Spartans who scored first. 

"Something like that, yeah. It was a good start," Winter Park coach Barry Creighton said. "After traveling, the first game is always tough. The girls were kind of nervous there, at the beginning when we were down. But they relaxed and played well."

Winter Park advances to the final four on Saturday morning. They will play Westminster Academy in the 9 a.m. game.

Hollywood Hills ended the season with a 14-5 record. 
"It was a great season," Rodriguez said. "The majority of my girls are seniors, so it's a good ending on states. I'm proud of them."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Four Broward teams head to water polo state finals

From the Sun Sentinel:

The FHSAA water polo state finals might be in Miami-Dade County, but there will be plenty of Broward County representation at the Ransom Everglades pool on Friday and Saturday.

Four teams — two girls and two boys — will be heading south, each pair making up a quarter of the field vying for a state title.

Broward will also send two of the title favorites: St. Thomas Aquinas' boys team (20-3) and the Westminster Academy girls squad (19-0).

St. Thomas tested itself with one of the toughest schedules in the state.

The Raiders lost three games in the regular season, a fact coach Michael Goldenberg attributes to injuries.

Bruce Espinoza, the team's focal attacker, was out for all three of the St. Thomas losses with an injured shoulder. The Raiders are undefeated since his return, and Espinoza scored three goals in St. Thomas' play-in win over Westminster.

"We played every single good team in the state and we won some and lost some, but like I said, the regular season [is] to get prepared for the final stage of the season," Goldenberg said.

St. Thomas is led by junior defender RJ Moore, who had seven goals in the play-in win. Moore runs the point in the Raider offense and is tasked with marking the set (central attacker) on defense.

St. Thomas plays a quarterfinal match against Oviedo.

Westminster will also open against Oveido.

The Cypress Bay boys team (14-9) will head to Miami after pulling off an upset of undefeated Cooper City in the play-in game, downing the Cowboys 9-8 in overtime on Andres Alemann's goal a minute into the extra period.

Cypress Bay will open play against Winter Park.

Hollywood Hills (14-4), led by the Khalil sisters, Juliette and Samantha, upended Pembroke Pines Charter 16-12 in their play-in game to head to the round-of-eight.

Samantha scored seven goals, while Juliette added six. The Spartans will need that scoring to advance — they open with Winter Park, who has laid waste to opponents on their way to the state finals.

Video: in the pool

The teams heading to the state water polo finals might make it look effortless, but I assure you, water polo is hardly easy.
I spent an evening in the pool with the St. Thomas Aquinas boys water polo team — taking part in a practice session.
It was my first time being introduced to the "egg-beater" where you churn your legs in opposite-direction circles, as to tread water. I was never able to master the move, and after five minutes, I was beat. My legs felt like potatoes and my arms were as limp as spaghetti.
That didn't matter. The practice went on for two more hours.
This was no leisurely dip in the pool.
Frankly, I was lucky to keep my head above water.
I could tell you about how good they were, or how bad I was, but you should see for yourself. Log onto and take a look.,0,3855723.story

Boca girls excited for first trip to state water polo championships

From the Sun Sentinel:

It all clicked in the third quarter of Boca Raton's April 5 girls water polo game against St. Andrew's.

Coach Jose Adames had been preaching the gospel of shooting the ball all season long, but the calls had fallen upon deaf ears until that point.

"They would make a pass, and they would be too afraid to shoot because they could miss," Adames said. "The ball would go to our set [central attacker] and it wouldn't move from there."

Adames can't say what changed, but it did. Suddenly, his girls were passing the ball on offense and firing shots on goal at an unprecedented clip.

They waited too long to get going in that game — the Bobcats lost 12-11 to the Scots — but they are an unblemished 5-0 since then, culminating with a 12-10 win over St. Andrew's and a 6-5 comeback win against Suncoast in the play-in game.

The Bobcats (16-8) won their first regional and district titles and will head to the state finals for the first time — the only Palm Beach county team represented in the girls' bracket.

Their reward? The defending state champion, Ransom Everglades, in the first round of the eight-team tournament.

"We talked about it the other day," Adames said. "We would rather be the underdog. No one expected us to get this far. The expectation is to keep winning — don't stop winning."

And while cohesive team play will be vital to the team's goal, they will lean on team captain Keri Ciancio and her tenacity in front of the opponents net.

"She never gives up," Adames said. "Even if she's smaller, she just keeps on digging. That tenacity, it's contagious."

Palm Beach County will only have one boys representative at the state, but it's a familiar one.

But despite back-to-back state titles and a reputation for domination, the St. Andrew's boys water polo team was no lock to return to the state finals.

With seven seniors absent from the 2011 state championship team, the Scots (21-7) weren't sure if they could make it three consecutive state crowns.

But a 9-8 win over No. 1 Boca Raton and a play-in game win over Suncoast later, the Scots are back for the hunt for the state title.

The road back to states wasn't easy for the Scots, and the first-round matchup is no pushover. St. Andrew's will take on one of the state-title favorites, Gulliver Prep, Friday at 7:30 p.m.

2012 FHSAA Boys and Girls Water Polo Finals Team Data & Up-to-Date Statistics




In span of 3 years, Lake Nona goes from laughingstock to state berth

By Austin Lyon, Orlando Sentinel

Spenser Nampon's water polo career got off to an inauspicious beginning.
"Our first game, the very first possession, we ended up scoring on ourselves," Nampon said.
The result of that first game was an 18-1 loss, but much has changed since Lake Nona's boys team made its debut in 2009.
The Lions have become one of Central Florida's top programs, and both the boys and girls teams will take their first trip to the FHSAA state water polo tournament this weekend.
The boys and girls teams from Winter Park and Oviedo also qualified for the tournament at Miami Ransom Everglades. The quarterfinals will be Friday, with the semifinals and finals set for Saturday.
Lake Nona's girls will take on Miami Dr. Krop at noon, while the Lions' boys will face Miami at 6 p.m.
"When I first came out, the kids couldn't even swim,'' Lake Nona coach Alex Bennett said. "The kids didn't have competition bathing suits, they didn't have caps and some didn't even have goggles. I didn't think this was going to happen in three years."
Senior Cole Hamre laughed as he reflected on the team's chaotic first practice.
"It was hectic. You can't even call it the same thing as what we do now," Hamre said. "It was just like messing around at the pool with some friends."
The boys and girls teams combined for four victories in their inaugural season.
"I'd never really been on a team before, and it was so hard to lose and lose and lose," junior Jenna Clinch said. "We never got the feeling of victory."
Despite those early struggles, Bennett, who won eight state titles at Miami Gulliver Prep, remained optimistic.
"Most of us would just kind of scoff at it and wouldn't believe him, but he wasn't lying," junior Cassidy Sizemore said.
The programs turned around as a result of a rigorous offseason training schedule. Many players participate in a year-round club program, and they take a trip to California each summer.
"The last three years of my life have just been water polo,'' Hamre said. "It's so engrained with who we are.''
That dedication has created a powerful bond.
"None of us were even friends before this and now I've never been close to anyone in my entire life," Hamre said.