The King’s Academy boys varsity volleyball team recently completed a phenomenal season.
For a program that has been in existence for only two years, just winning a few games would have been an acceptable outcome during the spring season. But that was not the case for TKA head coach Christy Lee Taylor and her squad of 15 players. She and her team had loftier expectations.
The Lions blitzed through the regular season with a 20-1 record. Their only loss was to Orlando’s Freedom High School, which defeated the Lions back on March 10.
During the postseason, TKA won five consecutive matches without dropping a game to advance to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) state tournament in Winter Haven, which brought together the state’s top eight teams at one venue, the Winter Haven Health Center on the campus of Polk State College.
On Friday, May 19, TKA continued its winning ways with a victory in its quarterfinal match against Weston’s Cypress Bay High School (25-18, 25-21, 29-27).
“In the state quarterfinal, we played a tough match,” Taylor said. “We were hitting our serves pretty well, with nine aces, which helped keep them out of system a little bit. Our serve receive was solid, which helped our setters run a smart, quick offense, and we were able to key in on their best players with our blocking.”
The next day, on Saturday, May 20, the Lions played the Eagles from Southwest Miami High School in the semifinals. In this game, TKA lost to eventual state champion Southwest (25-23, 25-20, 25-23).
“In our state semifinal loss, Southwest played incredible defense, was very well rounded and made very few unforced errors,” said Taylor, whose team finished with a season-long record of 26-2. “They had some of the best serve receives that I have seen this season. We struggled a little with our first touch, sometimes, which made it tougher to run our middles. They were then able to kind of camp out on our pin hitters, which made it more difficult to consistently put the ball away. Our boys still played well and fought until the last point in a very close match. Southwest had been ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 5 in the country with a very seasoned team, so we knew it would be a tough match.”
Taylor had nothing but words of praise for her team.
“My team this season accomplished so much in only their second year,” she said. “About half of our starting lineup just started playing last season. Their hard work, along with our few veteran players, made for an incredible season.”
According to Taylor, she attributes her team’s success this season to leadership and maturity.
“My three captains — seniors Logan Taylor and Saulius Vilkelis, and junior Micah Tumas — and all six rotation players, were a big reason why we were able to go so far,” she said. “My other starters, Jake Manning who has played for several years as a setter, but in his first year for us as a libero; my two middles, John Casey and Will McPherson, who are both in their second seasons; and Ransom Soles and Jacob Quesada, both in their second seasons, rounded out the starting lineup and were all keys to our success. We also had an incredibly supportive bench. It was truly a whole team effort.”
Last year’s team, in its first year of existence, had an outstanding 21-6 record, was a district tournament runner-up, advanced to the FHSAA regionals, and lost to Park Vista High School in the regional semifinals.
According to Taylor, the success of this year’s team can be attributed to the growth and maturity of last year’s tight-knit team.
“Last year, the boys truly became like an instant little family,” Taylor recalled. “Every single player that played last year that is still at the school came back out for volleyball, and we even had a graduated player, Jake Shephard, come back to help manage the team.”
Statistically, Logan Taylor was the team’s top server with 96 aces and 224 service points. Taylor and libero Jake Manning were tied with 197 digs each. In the kills category, Taylor led the team with 363. Setter/opposite Micah Tumas led the team with 55 blocks.
Looking to next year, TKA only loses four of this year’s seniors. They are Will McPherson, Saulius Vilkelis, Logan Taylor and Miguel Martinez.
“Overall, I was so proud of my boys,” Taylor said. “They really are an incredible group of young men. I cannot wait to see how God uses them in the future.”