LAKELAND — The Berkeley Prep volleyball team has been to the state tournament many times before, but the Buccaneers came to the Lakeland Center this year with a new look: baggy blue tank tops with a pink No. 14 on the front.
That number had been the Buccaneers’ focus since before their first practice this season, since they ended last season here with the 3A state title.
And their quest for the school’s 14th state volleyball championship arrived Thursday night with Berkeley already looking toward adding another.
The Buccaneers won their second straight state title with a four-game win over state final first-timer North Broward Prep, 25-18, 25-22, 24-26, 25-21.
“There might have been some people who thought we were boasting by putting a big No. 14 on our shirts,” longtime Berkeley coach Randy Dagostino said. “I just felt it was a constant reminder.
“I know what the design for our shirt is going to be next year,” he said. “Fifteen. How about that?”
The state crown was Dagostino’s 14th in 28 seasons, and ended the season one win short of his 800th career victory.
The Buccaneers (30-2), who hadn’t lost to an in-state opponent this season, were tested in Lakeland. A day after surviving a five-game semifinal with Orlando Bishop Moore, North Broward Prep rallied down 2-0 to win Game 3 and led the entire fourth game until the Bucs were able to tie it at 21.
Berkeley took the lead on junior Jordan Burgess’ ace and then a back-row kill from Burgess, then took the match’s final two points on Eagles attack errors to seal the championship.
“They wanted to win it just as badly as we did, I’m sure,” said Burgess, who led Berkeley with 30 kills. “But I think we have enough confidence after playing really good teams over and over again that we would be able to pull it out.”
Junior setter Mackenzie Dagostino had 45 assists, 16 digs, 11 kills and three service aces, while senior Amber Mirabello had 11 kills and seven digs.
Burgess added 16 digs and five total blocks and senior libero Natasha Rowland had a team-high 22 digs.
The Bucs, who ended the season as the No. 1-ranked team in Florida by MaxPreps, spent the entire season with a target on their back. For part of the season Berkeley was the top-ranked team in the nation.
“I think it showed us that we’re not a perfect team,” Mackenzie Dagostino said. “No one is a perfect team. We came back and we fought hard and we won that.”
Twenty-four hours earlier, Randy Dagostino watched as North Broward Prep (23-9) came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Jacksonville Bolles in five games to earn its first state title berth.
“Believe me, that was in the back of my mind,” he said. “They were really side-outing at will against us.”
But Berkeley’s staunch schedule — the Bucs’ Berkeley Premier tournament, the Asics Challenge in Chicago and a first-place finish in the Tampa Bay Invitational — served them well here.
“Every single time they step on the floor, they know they can raise their game when they have to test,” Randy Dagostino said. “These were two of the toughest teams we’ve played all year.”
Lucky No. 14
Berkeley Prep and coach Randy Dagostino won their 14th state volleyball title Thursday. It’s the second most by one coach in the state, trailing only Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons coach Louise Crocco’s 18. The win also marked Dagostino’s 799th career win, also second most in Florida behind Crocco (1,046). Here’s a look at the Buccaneers’ championship seasons.
Year Class Record
1986 A 36-4
1988 A 42-1
1989 A 38-2
1990 A 37-4
1991 2A 38-2
1992 2A 27-2
1993 2A 31-5
1995 3A 36-2
1997 3A 24-10
1998 3A 29-6
1999 2A 30-5
2003 2A 30-2
2009 3A 29-3
2010 3A 30-2