It’s been seven years since the area has had back-to-back state champions in girls volleyball.
P.K. Yonge won the 4A state title in 2014 and the 3A title in 2015 under then head coach Chad Davis.
The nationally ranked Blue Wave had an amazing 89-5 run in three seasons, which included a 5-set loss to eventual state runner-up Lake Highland Prep (Orlando) in the 4A Regional Finals in 2013.
It was just the second time that Alachua County had consecutive championships in the sport.
Gainesville High won two straight 4A state titles under Cindy Boulware in 2003 and 2004. The Hurricanes became the third Alachua County school at the time to win two state titles.
Oak Hall School came close to repeating with three straight state championship game appearances under Cari Martin from 1997-1999.
The Eagles won the Class A state title in 1997 and 1999, falling to Bayshore Christian (Tampa) in the 1998 Class A title game.
In fact, Oak Hall’s state title in 1997 ended a 20-plus year drought for area teams as the Eagles became the first area team to win it all in volleyball.
Santa Fe, which became the sixth Alachua County school to win a state title (Buchholz won the 6A state title in 2007 & St. Francis Catholic won the 3A title in 2016), seeks to become just the third area program to win back-to-back.
The Raiders’ journey is similar to P.K. Yonge’s.
Santa Fe lost at eventual state champion Bishop Kenny (Jacksonville) in five sets in the 4A Regional Final in 2020 and proceeded to win the state title the next season. The Raiders also advanced to the 2018 6A and 2019 4A title games, finishing runner-up both times.
Last year the Raiders (29-3) swept Calvary Christian (Fort Lauderdale) to win the 4A state title and finished with a 16-game winning streak in winning their first state title in school history.
Despite the graduations of Rylie Tam (381 kills) and Faith Marquis (team-leading 53 aces), Santa Fe has the talent to repeat.
The Raiders (13-1), who are currently ranked No. 2 overall in Florida by MaxPreps and No. 1 in Class 4A, have the reigning player of the year in Jalyn Stout, who was last year’s Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Volleyball, and Eric Marshall, the Florida coach of the year.
“She’s better than she was last year,” Marshall said. “She’s more dynamic. She jumps higher than she did last year. Her arm swing is faster than it was last year. She has way more confidence. She’s special.”
As a junior, Stout posted 392 kills, 393 assists, 236 digs and 33 aces, with a .550 hitting percentage.
Stout also played on the national team which finished second.
“The nice thing about Jalyn is that she wasn’t satisfied with how she played,” Marshall said. “She thought she could do way better hitting. This is only her third year that she’s been hitting the ball so she’s still not satisfied with what she does on the net. She wants to be a better blocker. So, she motivates herself. She wants to win another state championship.”
Libero Miya Thomas is also back.
The senior, who had 421 digs and 45 aces last year, has a big leadership quality on this team according to Marshall.
“She has a big volleyball IQ,” he said. “She understands the game. They (her and Stout) don’t have to talk to each other, they can just look at each other and know what’s going on.”
In last night’s home sweep of Florida High (Tallahassee) Stout finished with a game-high 16 kills.
“I feel like I’m taking on the leadership role better,” Stout said. “I didn’t do that very well last year. I kind of let Rylie do all of that, so Miya and I are taking on that role now.”
The only loss this year was to nationally ranked Cornerstone Christian (San Antonio, Texas) in two sets on Sept. 3. It was the first time that the Raiders had lost a set since October of last year in a 2-1 win against Trinity Catholic (Ocala).
That was a span of 17 games dating back to 2021.
Thomas, who led the team with 20 digs on Thursday, said the loss took off some of the pressure off of this team.
“I honestly think we needed it,” she said. “We said from the beginning that we didn’t want to lose a set, we didn’t want to lose a game, but I think losing that set and that game against that Texas team gave us a lot of reassurance. It showed our weaknesses and stuff that we needed to work on so I think that was a big gamechanger losing that game.”
Anisa Dorlouis, who was second on the team last year with 288 digs and had a team-leading 414 assists, is another key member for this Santa Fe team.
On Thursday, the senior finished with a triple-double against the Seminoles (13 service points, 13 assists, and 18 digs).
“Anisa is probably the most athletic kid on our team,” Marshall said. “She jumps out of the gym. She doesn’t look like she’s going to swing that fast and all of a sudden here it comes. She has the ability to serve the ball a foot over the net. It’s uncanny how she can do it over and over again.”
Dorlouis leads the team with 28 aces. She also is second in digs (145) and leads the team in assists (190) as the team’s setter but she’s also second on the team with 118 kills.
“She can do it all,” Marshall said. “She’s a 5-tool kid and we’re very lucky to have her.”
Transfer Camille Jackson, who is fourth on the team with 50 kills, and returning junior Joselynn Sanjurjo, who is third on the team with 68 kills, give the Raiders additional weapons.
If there is any pressure to repeat, Marshall said they don’t show it.
“They feel like they are the ones to beat this year and maybe that’s the first time they felt that way, even last year they didn’t feel that way because they had never won one, so how can you be the team to beat if Santa Fe High School’s never won a state championship,” he explained.
“Now I feel like they do feel like there is a target on their back. I think some of the pressure went away when we lost to Texas. They were playing like, ‘we don’t want to drop a set,’ and we finally did, so I do think they are playing different after we lost, and I hate to lose, but I do think it helped us a little mentally that we’re not putting so much pressure on ourselves to not drop a set.”
As the hunted and not the hunter, Stout said there is one thing this team will need to do to repeat.
“Focus,” she said. “Take it one game at a time, not looking forward to state, just winning the game we’re at right now and focusing on getting better at practice.”
Marshall said his team has played high-level volleyball for so long that they understand if they don’t play their best against the schedule that they play, they could lose at any time.
“They’re mad they lost one game,” he said. “Their goal was to go 32-0. That was the goal they set, not Eric Marshall. So losing to Texas was a huge disappointment to them. It was also the first set they’ve lost in over a year, so for them that re-motivated them.”
“We dropped that game but we need to beat last year’s record. One game at a time is great but they have a goal in mind and they want another state championship.”