28-0. The number one ranked team in the state according to MaxPreps. The Freedom boys volleyball team have a target on their back heading into the state championships, and they know it.
“I love all the attention on us because it gets our team even more fueled and it helps us play better,” senior setter Justin Alicea said.
“I’ve told the kids all year long, enjoy the ride,” head coach Gina McFerren said. “Enjoy the challenges, because seasons like this don’t come around very often.”
The Patriots have gone through their schedule with relative ease this season, playing in only one 5-set match, and that was earlier this week in the first round play-in against Dr. Phillips. Ransom Everglades is the opponent in the state quarterfinals, a team Freedom beat 2-0 back in March, but Coach McFerren is making sure her boys are prepared.
“It can be a positive and a negative,” she said. “We know that we can play with them and we know that we can hang with them. But playing a team more than once in a season, it gets harder everytime you face them.”
Thirty miles north, Lake Mary is making their second straight appearance in the state quarterfinals. Losing at this stage last year served as more than enough motivation for this year.
“We went in last year unbelievably cocky,” junior outside hitter LJ Savallo said. “Thinking we could just walk through, we weren’t even focused on the first day, it was just the second day. This year it’s just one game.”
“It left a huge hole last year losing,” junior setter Diego Villafane said. “And this year just makes us want to work and grind harder.”
“If and a big if, we get past South Broward, I think it will really set us up for the rest of the tournament,” Lake Mary head coach Louis Reyes said.
As for a potential all Central Florida championship game?
“They’re another one of the top teams in the state of Florida, they’re a hard team to beat,” said Alicea.
“It’d be nice to be the one blemish,” said Savallo. “An Orlando team beating an Orlando team for the finals.”