There was all sorts of greatness achieved this year.
It is hard to believe, but another sports year for Sarasota schools is now complete. Like most years, the 2020-2021 school year was filled with triumph — and some heartbreak, though the joyous moments far outweighed the tough ones.
Here are the top 10 moments from Sarasota schools' year in sports.
1. Riverview High girls golf wins state title
After finishing third in 2019 at the Class 3A state tournament, the Riverview High girls golf team turned disappointment into motivation a season later.
The Rams — senior Aaron Whitley, junior Jacqueline Putrino, junior Rachel Carlson and freshman Alana Kutt — were not going to finish anywhere but first place in 2020.
They followed through on that goal. The Rams won the tournament in November, shooting 589 as a team over two days at the Mission Inn Resort and Spa in Howey-in-the-Hills. That was 10 strokes better than second-place Niceville High. Putrino repeated as the tournament's individual champion, shooting a 36-hole total of 141 (three under par), including a two-under final day to hold off Bartram Trail High's Elizabeth Kondal (142) and Lakeland High's Analiese Raath (143).
2. Sarasota High boys swimming rides team effort to state title
If you ranked every swim team title from "least team effort" to "most team effort," the Sarasota High boys swim team's Class 3A state title win Nov. 6 would place close to the "most" edge.
That's because the Sailors won the title without winning a single event. And it was not close: the Sailors finished with 254.5 points, besting second-place Barron Collier High (200 points).
How did they do it? By believing in the value of depth, and of each other. The Sailors were helped by the arrival of senior Owen Matteson, who moved to the area from Buffalo, NY during the offseason. Matteson was part of the team's 200 medley (1:33.17) and 400 freestyle (3:09.12) relay teams, both of which finished second, and finished fourth in the individual 200 freestyle (1:41.67) and 100 butterfly (49.43).
3. Mooney swimmer takes two individual golds
Cardinal Mooney High sophomore girls swimmer Michaela Mattes would not be denied.
After winning one gold medal at the 2019 state meet, Mattes won two gold medals at the 2020 state meet Nov. 15 in Stuart, one in the Class 1A 200 individual medley (2:01.10) and one in the Class 1A 500 freestyle (4:47.19). Mattes said some of her motivation comes from her father, Jason Mattes, who reminds her that "hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard."
4. Riverview High beach volleyball aces state tournament
It came down to one final match-up.
The Riverview Rams beach volleyball team, undefeated through the regular season, found itself in a tussle with Bishop Kenny High last week in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference's Class AA state title match. It was the final match of a two-day tournament in Tavares, held April 30-May 1, to determine the best in Florida, and it was tied 2-2. The Rams' No. 1 and No. 2 pairs had won their individual match-ups, but their No. 3 and No. 5 pairs had lost.
It came down to a battle of No. 4 pairs in a best of three-set match. Seniors Carlye Perrigo and Ella McMullen, were ready for the challenge. Perrigo said she will never forget watching the ball hit the sand to win the final point, then turning to see her teammates running toward her in celebration.
5. Cougars, Tornadoes track stars take silver at states
At the state track and field meet, held May 7-8 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, some local athletes took home hardware.
Cardinal Mooney High senior Max Middleton finished second in the 2A boys discus with a throw of 45.95 meters (150 feet, 9 inches). It was the last and best throw of his career, and considering he started throwing the discus in 2019, Middleton was happy with the results.
The Booker High girls 4x100 relay team took second place in Class 2A (49.40 seconds). The team, comprised of seniors Dominique Starr and Raja Arrington and freshmen Terrietta Smith and Jakai Peterson, said the key to its success was its handoffs, which allowed them to get to full speed quickly.
6. Mooney girls basketball finishes as runner-up
The state championship game didn't end how the Cardinal Mooney girls basketball team wanted it to end, but even reaching that point was an accomplishment.
Thanks to stellar play from sophomore guard Olivia Davis and sophomore forward Jordyn Byrd, plus the team's gritty junior class, the Cougars had the best season in program history, finishing with a 20-9 record. It culminated in a 47-32 win against The Master's Academy in the Class 3A state semifinals. Byrd had 15 points and Davis had 14 points.
7. Riverview boys basketball advances to elite eight
The Riverview High boys basketball team reached the Class 7A regional finals (elite eight) after defeating Alonso High 78-71 on Feb. 23 at home. It was a gutsy performance, taking the lead in the fourth quarter after trailing for the first three. Senior forward Jayven Millien finished with 17 points and sophomore Jason Jackson finished with 16.
The Rams lost in the next round but finished the year 22-7 and played up-tempo, aggressive basketball, and it made for a team that was as tough to play against as it was fun for fans to watch.
8. Mooney indoor volleyball reaches regional finals
A year after winning the Class 3A state title, anything less than a repeat would seem to be a disappointment for Cardinal Mooney volleyball.
But after losing three key seniors from the championship team and going through mid-season struggles — as well as going through the worst of a global pandemic — the Cougars reaching the regional finals is an accomplishment of its own.
Cardinal Mooney finished the season 19-9 and defeated the Community School of Naples (21-6) on the road in straight sets Oct. 27 to reach the regional finals. Freshman Lola Buck-Taylor had 13 digs, freshman Helena Hebda had 31 assists and sophomore Madeline Carson had five kills.
9. Allison Kukanza makes history for Riverview High football
What started as a way to stay active during a pandemic break from girls club soccer turned into history.
Riverview High senior Allison Kukanza first asked her friends about the idea — "What if I joined the football team as a kicker?" — as a half-joke. But they responded positively, so Kukanza reached out to Rams Coach Josh Smithers. From there, a talk and video proof of her skills led to a tryout, which led to Kukanza joining the team for real.
She took her lumps in practice, but she also showed Smithers the same toughness her male teammates showed. And she got better. On Oct. 2, Kukanza connected on an extra point in the Rams' victory over Lennard High. In the process, Kukanza became the first female athlete to score a point for the Riverview football team.
The Rams consistently used Kukanza at kicker after that moment through the end of their season.
10. Booker girls soccer gets first win in three seasons
It had been a while since the Booker High girls soccer team was able to win one.
It was Dec. 12, 2017, to be exact. A 2-1 over Southeast High. That means the team had played 37 games without a victory — until Dec. 5.
Led by a strong game from freshman goaltender Laila Ward (15 saves), who Coach Jammie Jordan spotted in the cafeteria and asked to try out for the team despite no prior soccer experience, Booker defeated Sarasota Christian 2-0, exorcising a three-year-old demon. Sophomore Kayla Corea and junior Jazmene Perez supplied the goals.
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