The close ties, on and off the court, for Lyman High School’s dynamic senior volleyball duo, Alanys Viera and Valeria Rosado, weren’t always so tight.
Things were actually a bit awkward when Rosado first moved from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, to Central Florida and enrolled at Lyman for the second semester of her sophomore school year. She could speak only Spanish, and she gravitated initially towards other Spanish-speaking classmates.
Viera, who moved from Puerto Rico to Florida as a four-year-old, was much more comfortable communicating in English than Spanish.
But with volleyball as their common ground the communication issues dissolved with time. And two standout talents forged the connection that has helped propel Lyman into a state championship match on Sunday night in Fort Myers.
“Valeria stayed over at our house sometimes when we were both playing OTVA (club volleyball) and we became really good friends,” Viera remembers. “When you are close to your teammates it really helps.”
The Greyhounds, 28-1 and ranked No. 1 in Class 7A, play second-ranked Lake Nona (20-3) for the title at 7 p.m. at the Suncoast Credit Union Arena. The match was initially scheduled for Friday but was pushed back by the Florida High School Athletic Association due to concerns at Tropical Storm Eta’s impact.
“This is a legit one vs. two matchup. It’s as good a final as you can get,” said Lyman coach Bob Drake. “Lake Nona is big. They’re athletic. They block well and they hit the ball all over the court.”
Viera’s ability to make pinpoint deliveries to Rosado and her other hitters is the offensive key for an undersized team that excels in serving and defending. Viera is just a shade over 5-foot-4, tiny for a Division I college prospect, but her setting is impeccable. She signed to play for Miami on Wednesday.
Rosado is a lean 6-foot-1 outside hitter who can crush kills to the floor from the front row and the back. She signed with Stephen F. Austin of Texas.
Rosado’s mother and step-dad made the move away from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in 2017. She said the family’s home in Bayamon was not one that was seriously damaged, but the family was without power for three months. Finding groceries and other necessities was difficult for much longer.
They settled in Central Florida in large part because Rosado’s parents knew Felix Viera, Alanys' father, as an acclaimed club volleyball coach from Puerto Rico.
Valeria misses her father, who still lives on the island. He flew in to see her Senior Night match in September and she happily said that he is scheduled to be back in Florida to see her play again in Sunday’s final.
Rosado’s English is much improved after nearly two years at Lyman. She knows now that finishing high school in Florida has helped her be prepared for college in the U.S.
“That was my dream,” she said with her eyes lighting up this week. “I had to be able to speak English.”
Felix, a former Puerto Rican professional player, teams with his wife to run the Orlando Tampa Volleyball Academy’s facility in Longwood. His lengthy list of national age group championship teams includes several that included Alanys. The decision to have Alanys attend Lyman, where her older brother played boys volleyball, gave a new identity to a program that won its first district title in 37 years last season.
“The boys volleyball was very good at Lyman when my son (Christian) played,” Felix said. “The girls volleyball was not the best. But I said to Alanys ‘Don’t forget that volleyball is not everything in high school’. My daughter is so happy inside the school.”
Lyman now has the chance to prove that it has become the best in its class.
“We had some good club players around her but Alanys gave us that player who played at the elite (national championship) level,” Drake said. “That changed our program.”
Rosado’s arrival pushed the Greyhounds up a few more notches.
“That gave us a bonafide hitter who can put the ball away from all over the court,” Drake said. “That allowed us to be more offensive-minded and establish our ability to score.”
The steady development of senior Sky Raphael, the daughter of former Bethune-Cookman University head coach Isaac Raphael, provided a second potent outside hitter. And when Sky came in as a ninth grader so did her father, who was head coach for Winter Springs High School for seven seasons and later an assistant for FIU and UCF.
Isaac, a math teacher at Lyman, handles most of the technical coaching for the Greyhounds.
The Lyman defense is exceptional with junior defensive specialists Gabriela Pagan and Sara Ferrer, and ninth grader Carola Negron all playing key roles for a team that thrives on its ability to keep balls in play and make accurate passes to Viera.
“I think our defense is the most important thing that we do well,” Drake said. “They just don’t let balls drop. They get the ball to Alanys, who 99% of the time makes the set that gives our hitters the chance to put the ball away.”.
This article was first published at OrlandoSentinel.com. Varsity Content Editor Buddy Collings can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)
Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.