BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School boys varsity volleyball team hosted rival Royal Palm Beach High School on Tuesday, May 5, and held on to defeat the Wildcats in five sets (21-25, 25-18, 25-12, 20-25, 15-12).
The first-round play-in win propelled the Wolverines into the state tournament quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
Wellington (20-8) bested the Wildcats earlier in the season in three sets, but Royal Palm Beach (17-7) was not going out without a fight. Like prizefighters, the two teams battled over the net with precision before a capacity crowd.
Royal Palm Beach managed some early momentum and took the first set 25-21.
The Wolverines battled back, winning the second and third sets and dominating a potentially fatigued Royal Palm Beach squad in the third, 25-12. The Wildcats needed to dig deep to stay in the fight, and did just that, rallying to take the pivotal fourth set 25-20, forcing a fifth set.
The fifth set was by far the most entertaining, and it ended with an unusual twist. A serve violation was enforced on the Wildcats on the match point of the final set. The violation gave the Wolverines the final point and the win to move on to the state tournament quarterfinals.
Royal Palm Beach’s players stood on the court, stunned by the official’s decision. “It stinks to have a great match end on a ref’s call, but it was the right call,” Wellington coach Brian Bausch said.
Royal Palm Beach appeared to have built some momentum with the serve, down 14-12. “Kids fight that hard, it shouldn’t happen,” Royal Palm Beach coach Sal Ciano said.
Standouts for Wellington were outside hitter YannickFeurich with 15 kills, middle blocker Richie Green with 14 kills, and Keegan Sullivan with nine kills and three blocks. Libero Brockton Boretti also tallied 26 digs for the Wolverines.
For the Wildcats, Devin Wallace had 16 kills, Greg Hill racked up 24 digs, and Griffin Schrauth added seven blocks and seven kills.
Wellington defeated North Miami-Mourning last Friday in the state quarterfinals (25-21, 17-25, 25-16, 25-18) to move on to the semifinals last Saturday, where the Wolverines fell to Orlando Bishop-Moore.
The loss ended the Wolverines’ run at the state title, but they ended the season with a 20-8 record and the district crown.
ABOVE: A.J. Starkins goes up for a kill for the Wolverines.