By Gary Curreri
Pompano Beach High School girls’ volleyball team coach William Strachan said the only opponent that can knock off the Tornadoes is themselves.
Pompano Beach (20-5) will look to win its fourth district championship on Thursday, when his team takes on Cardinal Gibbons (17-6) in the District 16-5A championship at 6 p.m.
“To win states, we have to take care of the ball,” Strachan said. “In volleyball, you have to do two things — one is to make your serves, [the other is} to get that first contact on serves. We have to execute. I believe the girls, especially the seniors, are stepping up at the right time.”
Pompano Beach dropped the Broward County Athletic Association (BCAA) girls’ volleyball championship last Saturday to St. Thomas Aquinas in the title game, 25-21, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18 at Cardinal Gibbons High School.
“I felt pretty happy about the BCAA Final,” said Strachan. “I am glad we are playing at a high level. We missed some serves down the road and St. Thomas capitalized on it. I told them our service team had to do better than their servers and that wasn’t the case in that match.”
Heading into districts, Pompano Beach ended Cypress Bay’s bid of an undefeated season and then dropped two tough matches to St. Thomas Aquinas. The Tornados have also played Chaminade, Pine Crest, Calvary Christian, Cardinal Gibbons, and Jupiter.
“It prepares us,” Strachan added. “If you look at our schedule all year, we basically handpicked the top teams in South Florida to play. Playing Cypress Bay or St. Thomas is just another game for us. It’s good because if you play the top teams you hope you improve. You find out what you need to work on and right now I think we are playing at a very high level.”
The team’s losses were to St. Thomas (twice), Pine Crest, Chaminade and Jupiter.
“In our losses, it is just that our team will make an error and the other team capitalizes on it and goes on a run,” Strachan said. “I think that the only team that can beat us, really, is ourselves.”
Junior Cassidy Bonito transferred from West Broward and has helped the team.
In the past, Pompano Beach has had sisters Nina and Stephanie Pellitteri (FSU), Brittany Pellitteri (FAU) and Savannah Davis (FIU) who have contributed; however this year’s squad has a different dynamic.
“This is the first year where we have two big middles, where, in years past, we have always been staying on the outsides,” Strachan said. “I felt good this year because we have Paige (Alsten) in the middle and I think she is the best middle in the county. Our second middle Jasmine (Souverein-Reisert), even though she doesn’t have the touches or the experience, she is 6-ft. 4-in. and that makes her a factor.
“We have Nikki (Esposito) and Tara (Brannen) on the outsides and they are good players,” Strachan said. “Both of my setters like to hit too, so that is helpful. Our worst opponent is ourselves sometimes. We have to execute and play at a top level. If we do that, we’ll win. We have got to work better on finishing strong and we’ll do that in the next week or two. If we can execute, I don’t think there is a team that will beat us.”
Alsten, a senior middle blocker and the team’s most dominant hitter, is committed to Webber College in Georgia. Esposito, a senior outside hitter, is committed to play sand volleyball at FSU. Other top players for the Tornados include Casey Calhoun (senior setter), Cassidy Bonito (junior setter), Tara Brannen (junior outside hitter), Cori Smothers (junior libero).
HOOPS FOR A CURE
The City of Pompano Beach and Blanche Ely High School are going to duke it out on the court in a Hoops For a Cure Basketball Challenge to raise funds for Breast Cancer Awareness Month next Wednesday, [Oct. 29] at 5 p.m. in the school’s gym.
As part of the city’s wellness program, employees from Pompano’s public works and utilities departments formed a Hoops For Health basketball team that has been playing basketball every week after hours as part of the wellness initiative.
They challenged the Blanche Ely High School varsity basketball team, teachers and staff to a basketball competition to raise awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Both teams will be wearing pink for the game.
Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher will take part in the basketball game for this worthy cause.
The Blanche Ely High School Marching Band, teachers and city employees will also be in attendance to cheer on their team and show their support.