There were championships abound despite a shortened spring season.
It may not have ended the way anyone wanted, but the 2019-2020 school year was an impressive one.
Here are the top-five moments from the 2019-2020 high school sports season:
1. Cardinal Mooney volleyball takes home state title
A year after falling in the fifth set of the 2018-2019 state championship game, the Cardinal Mooney volleyball team took Westminster Christian to the limit after appearing to be headed toward defeat. In the winner-take-all fifth set, the Cougars found the strength they knew they had all along, and defeated the Warriors 15-12 to take the match 3-2.
Mooney took an early lead at 5-2 before Westminster charged ahead. At 9-6, things looked dicey. But a timeout allowed the Cougars to make a decision. They simply refused to lose.
Cardinal Mooney junior Ashley "Skye" Ekes led the team with 19 kills and added 10 blocks. Senior Izabella Rae had a game-high 46 assists and senior Sophia Hritz had a game-high 22 digs.
2. Riverview and Cardinal Mooney swimmers take gold at states
Riverview High senior girls swimmer Emma Weyant won two individual golds at the Class 4A state meet, held Nov. 15-16 in Stuart. Weyant won the 200-meter individual medley (1:58.10) and the 500-yard freestyle (4:40.85). She won the IM by more than two seconds. She won the 500 free by more than 10.
While taking home gold was nothing new for Weyant, it was new for Cardinal Mooney freshman Michaela Mattes. She received both gold and silver at this year's Class 1A state championship meet, held Nov. 8-9 in Stuart. Mattes took gold in the 500-yard freestyle (4:46.59) and the silver in the 200-yard individual medley (2:02.74).
On the boys side, Riverview senior Alexander Gusev won the 200-yard individual medley (1:48.88) and the 100-yard butterfly (48.62) at the 4A meet.
3. Riverview and Cardinal Mooney golfers win individual titles
Jacqueline Putrino, a sophomore golfer at Riverview High, won the Class 3A individual championship at Mission Inn Resort and Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, held on Oct. 29-30. Her two-day total of 5-under-par 136 was three strokes better than second-place finisher Madison Hewlett of East Lake High.
Putrino's performance helped the Rams finish third as a team at the tournament.
Cardinal Mooney senior golfer Robbie Higgins won the Class 1A boys title, also at Mission Inn, on Nov. 1-2. Higgins shot 2-under-par (139), besting First Academy's Sampson Zheng by four strokes. Over 11 season events, Higgins averaged 73.6 strokes per 18 holes. He went under that mark to take home the title.
Higgins' win helped the Cougars finish fifth as a team.
4. Sarasota football has first winning season in 13 years
The fans and alumni of the Sarasota Sailors waited long enough for a turnaround. In 2019-2020, the Sailors delivered.
Sarasota went 6-4 in year two under coach Spencer Hodges, its first winning season in 13 years, including four wins with a margin of victory of 40 points or more. The offense, under coordinator Brody Wiseman, set a school record for most points in a season (335) and the defense averaged more than two turnovers forced per game. Senior running back Brian Battie, who will play for South Florida in the fall, starred for the Sailors, averaging 9.5 yards per rush and scoring 15 rushing touchdowns.
5. Booker boys basketball comes together to upset Cocoa High
All season, Booker High boys basketball coach Markus Black said he was waiting for his "dogs" to develop a strong bite. They were still young pups, he said. He and the team's fans had to be patient.
That bite developed as the season went along. Despite a 9-16 regular season record, Booker hung in almost every game and sneaked into the playoffs as a seven seed. The Tornadoes faced second-seed Cocoa High (20-11) on the road Feb. 20 in the Class 4A regional quarterfinals.
They were not scared. They played with toughness and heart — and bite. Booker defeated Cocoa 77-61, proof of how far the program had come. Even though the Tornadoes fell in the next round, the win was proof of the things this collection of talent can do in 2020-2021 and beyond.