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Wrapping up the season: Columbus Volleyball

By Jake Reed


The past week has been an eventful one for Columbus Volleyball. With a fundraiser game against a special rival, Palmetto, dedicated to a great cause, along with many other games crowding the final days of the season, the volleyball team begins to wrap up their season.


The community has always been a key piece in Columbus’ endeavors, whether they be school-related or athletic-related. This was exhibited on Tuesday, April 16th, when Columbus Volleyball had a match against the Palmetto Panthers, but the game was dedicated to someone very dear in our community.


”A Night for Lu” was a special way to honor the life and loving memory of Lucy Fernandez. This is just one of the amazing things that the Fernandez family has put together to celebrate Lucy’s life. 


The Lucy Fernandez Foundation was created to “provide scholarship and experiential learning opportunities for students at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, her beloved school, to share in what generations of young women like Lucy were fortunate to experience - empowerment and success through the values founded in Tradition, Sisterhood, Spirituality, and Service.” The foundation also aims to raise awareness around boater and watercraft safety in order to preserve Lucy’s passion for being on the water.


Lucy’s brother, Kevin Fernandez, has also initiated his very own “bLU CREW”, a club dedicated to service as well as promoting boater and watercraft safety to positively impact the community from a student standpoint. Kevin, Class of 2026, is a right-side hitter for the Explorer’s Varsity Volleyball team. His collaboration was pivotal in the execution of such a beautiful event. 


“A Night for Lu” began with a tailgate at 4:30 in front of Brother Kevin’s Gym. It consisted of multiple food trucks, ranging from Bangin Burgers to Momma’s Lemonade to Cuban Guys. The clear favorite was Kona Ice, with family, friends, players and staff all lining up to enjoy snow cones prior to the game. DJ Ralo was the final component to maintain liveliness throughout the tailgate, and he would continue to control the music throughout the game.

 

The tailgate was also the site to purchase the limited-edition merchandise. The volleyball team wore zip-up jackets during warmups, and they featured different symbols that were significant to the cause.


The first symbol was the number 26 on the front. It was her lucky number and also her birthday.


On the back, the blue and yellow flag was meant to be flown on boats to promote the same safety message reiterated throughout the foundation’s mission. Flying the flag signals that you show extra care toward yourself, your passengers and everyone around you. These symbols were to serve as a constant reminder of Lucy as we celebrated her life and her legacy through the support of the foundation. It looks like a wave but doubles as a bird’s wing to represent Lucy’s family nickname, Bird. 


Photo from @lucyfernandezfoundation on instagram

The foundation’s logo is a reference to Lucy’s presence in the sky, as moments of security among loved ones arose when they saw the “Blue ray and rainbows” that continuously appeared.


The varsity game was preceded by a speech from Lucy and Kevin’s father, Andy Fernandez, thanking everyone for their support and also acknowledging Katy Puig, who was also injured in the boating accident. 


Katy receives support from a separate organization by the name of Katy Strong. Katy Strong “seeks to raise awareness of the challenges that Katy confronts daily as a result of her injury and encourage others to show strength in the face of adversity.”


Kevin followed the speech with a prayer and was presented with a gift from JV Volleyball.

A poster and a team-signed volleyball presented to the Fernandez Family, as well as flowers for the Puig family. (Jake Reed)


The game started well for the Explorers, taking the first set with a score of 25-14. In an intense game, the crowd would occasionally erupt in chants due to long, uncertain rallies between the teams. Unfortunately, from there, it went downhill. Columbus fought a hard battle throughout the next three sets but ultimately came up short by just two points in two of those sets and lost the fourth set 20-25. This concluded the game with a final score of 1-3, with Palmetto getting away with the victory. This game brought Columbus’ record to 11-7.


“My favorite part of the event was the tailgate because everyone from both teams was able to gather for a good cause and enjoy a good night together,” said Kevin Fernandez. 


Overall, “A Night for Lu” proved to be a success as it allowed the Palmetto and Columbus communities to bond during the tailgate. The game also fit its intention to celebrate the loving memory of Lucy Fernandez and raise awareness toward boater and watercraft safety, the goal of the Lucy Fernandez Foundation.


The remainder of the week was on the busier side. Both varsity and JV faced off against Sunset on Thursday, April 17th. The JV team was placed at a great disadvantage when libero (position dedicated to passing the ball) Emilio Sierra was injured during a diving play and later received stitches on his chin. Thankfully, both teams were able to come out with a clean sweep and look onward toward the weekend tournaments.


JV played in the Sunset JV Invitational Tournament, facing off against Archbishop McCarthy, Belen, Sunset, and Palmetto. They started the tournament off strong, remaining undefeated all the way through to the championship. In the championship, they faced Palmetto once again. Unfortunately, after a long fight, they lost both sets, 20-25 and 22-25. This match secured the JV Explorers second place in the gold division.

 

Varsity, on the other hand, was at the GMAC (Greater Miami Athletic Conference Tournament) over the weekend. Sadly, after cruising past the first round against Gables with a 2-0 victory, Columbus went up against the Miami High Stingarees, the number one seed in the tournament, and the Explorers’ run was cut short. 


To recap Monday’s game, the Explorers visited the True North Titans, ranked 14th in the state of Florida on MaxPreps. JV was able to bounce back from a rough first set despite missing a setter, Ethan Allende, due to a broken toe. Setter Dylan Cortina experimented with a 5-1 rotation, meaning that he would play in the front row as well as the back row. Ironically enough, he even recorded a block and was able to pick the game back up using Middle Blocker Patrick Gonzales who has recently been referred to as the “weapon” of the team due to his precise placement when hitting. These strategies led to the Explorers JV team blowing True North JV out by a large margin in both the second and third sets. 


Unfortunately, despite winning the first set, the varsity team was not able to secure the win as the Titans took the next 3 sets.


Charlie Friguls (7) assisting Victor Cabrera (10) for the kill to end the first set.

(Video filmed by Jake Reed)


Tuesday’s game was senior night vs. Varela. There was a ceremony celebrating the seven players and three team managers who will be graduating in less than two months. Their families all gathered together to celebrate the penultimate game of the seniors’ high school careers, so they took the starting lineup over. 


Gus Ferreiro, originally a libero, moved to the setter position, and Matteo Roca took over as libero for the first set. Unfortunately, the seniors all being in at once altered the typical chemistry that the players have used all season. The first set went to Varela, but once the gradual substitutions began helping the seniors get their chance, the game was quickly changed. The next three sets were taken relatively easily by Columbus, with the third set having a difference of 12 points.



Sophomore Lucas Riva (9) getting the third kill in a row.

(Video filmed by Jake Reed)


In terms of how the seniors played, Felipe Castillo (Middle Blocker) made an impact, tallying 2 kills and 3 blocks and even getting to the serving line at one point, which is pretty impressive for a middle who does not usually serve. Zach Bermudez (Outside Hitter) did an excellent job in the back row when he was the defensive replacement for Daniel Riva (Outside Hitter), a force on the offensive end. JP Zurfluh (Right-Side Hitter) and Victor Cabrera (Middle Blocker) had excellent games, racking up a combined 20 kills and 8 blocks just between the two of them. During the final set, Andrei Otero, one of the team managers, was able to enter the game. Otero played outside hitter for a few points and even almost earned a kill.


Overall, it was a great game for all the seniors and will serve as a great lasting memory for them and their families.


In the final game of the season, JV defeated Reagan in a 3 set matchup in what was a smooth first set for Columbus but then neck and neck throughout the game’s remainder. Varsity continued the winning spree with a clean 3-0 sweep on Reagan’s home court.


“My favorite part of the season was being able to improve with my teammates while having fun and winning games. I got into volleyball because I wanted to remain involved with Columbus sports, so I started as team manager, then earned myself a jersey through hard work and dedication. I am very glad that I gave my time to do so, as I truly enjoyed the journey,” said JV Outside Hitter Joseph Socorro as he reflected on the season.


“I liked how strong we played throughout the season. One game that specifically stood out to me was versus King’s Academy during the Ferguson Tournament. Although we lost, we fought hard, which we will continue to do as we go into districts,” said varsity Middle Blocker Dante Muñecas.


 Ultimately, the season is rounding off with the JV record amounting to 15-3 and the varsity record at 15-9. The varsity squad is looking solid going into the district competitions and most definitely will carry a scary reputation among the opponents even throughout the state.

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