When Berkeley Prep volleyball coach John Coup says he wants to schedule the toughest competition around to take on his Buccaneers (5-1), it’s not an exaggeration.
This weekend at the Berkeley Premier — a 24-team tournament hosted by Berkeley Prep for the 21st year — one of the best teams in the nation, Mercy Academy (Louisville, Ky.), will be in the field.
Mercy knocked down the Bucs in the 2010 championship match, when Berkeley Prep was ranked No. 1 in the country. The following year, the Bucs won their last Premier 2-0 against Howell (St. Charles, Mo.) in the final match.
But the annual tournament isn’t just about taking home the top prize. The experience of playing against some of the best high school volleyball talent, Coup said, can be a major takeaway.
“When they watch these teams play, hopefully they gain an appreciation for the other team’s play,” Coup said. “Hopefully they want to emulate it, the passion and the wherewithal that some of these kids play with.”
Twenty-one of the 24 teams are in-state, with Walton and Woodward hailing from Marietta and College Park, Ga., respectively. But the greatest distance, more than 800 miles, will be traveled by the Jaguars.
No. 1 in the nation in last week’s MaxPreps rankings, Mercy has started the season 16-0. The Jaguars will be a tall order for any team they play this weekend, but, as Coup insists, it’s one for which his Bucs long.
“You want the kids to see that, and you want it to be a challenge for the kids: ‘Hey, let’s play hard, and let’s beat these guys,’ ” he said.
When: Friday-Saturday. Pool play (eight pools of three teams) begins at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday. First-place finishers will move on to the gold bracket, second-place to the silver bracket and third to the bronze bracket, with play beginning at 12:30 Saturday for each bracket. The championship match is at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Straz Family Field House, Dimmitt Gymnasium and the Johnson Field House at Berkeley Prep
Teams: Academy of the Holy Names, Berkeley Prep, Bishop Moore, Boca Raton, Boone, Clearwater Central Catholic, Chaminade-Madonna, Evangelical Christian, The First Academy, Fort Myers, Lake Highland Prep, Leon, Martin County, Mercy Academy (Ky.), Pinecrest, Plant, Ransom Everglades, Robinson, Tampa Prep, Vanguard, Venice, Walton (Ga.), Westminster Christian, Woodward Academy (Ga.)