ST. PETERSBURG — It was a much too familiar scenario for Tampa Catholic.
The Crusaders held heavily favored Berkeley Prep at bay for a half but a succession of quick-fire, early second-half strikes by the Buccaneers erased any momentum in a 5-2 Berkeley Prep victory.
The result was strikingly similar to the first time the Buccaneers and the Crusaders met in the regular season. Tampa Catholic held its own before falling apart after the break in a 4-1 loss.
The difference Wednesday? The Crusaders’ latest collapse came in a 3A-10 district semifinal.
Berkeley Prep moves on to Friday’s final against second-seeded Clearwater Central Catholic, a 2-1 overtime winner over St. Petersburg Catholic. The Crusaders finish their season at 5-9-1.
“(Berkeley’s) a quick team,” Tampa Catholic coach Ary Castillo said. “We kept up with them as long as we could.”
The Buccaneers’ Samantha Newhaller capitalized on a pinpoint cross from Danielle Manning to head home the first goal in the sixth minute.
Berkeley Prep (16-4-2) held that advantage through halftime before scoring three times in the first seven minutes of the second half. Anne Kelly drilled a shot from the left edge of the 18 for a 2-0 lead, Newhaller scored her second goal moments later and Amber Famiglietti’s header off a corner kick put the Buccaneers ahead by four.
“We were connecting, we just weren’t finding the final pass early on,” Berkeley Prep coach Ken Roberts said. “The second half, we were able to open up the field and spread them out a little bit.”
Tampa Catholic’s Michelle Bartholet converted a penalty kick, then followed with her second goal of the game with 13:30 left to give the Crusaders new life. But the Buccaneers’ Taylor Richardson quickly ended those hopes by fighting through the Crusaders’ defense for Berkeley Prep’s fifth goal.