KISSIMMEE — Berkeley Prep will have its dream matchup with Orlando Bishop Moore in tonight’s Class 4A state title match at Silver Spurs Arena.
Since the Bucs’ five-game win over the Hornets in their home gym in the Berkeley Premier final in September, they’ve been anticipating this day: a rematch between Florida’s top two nationally ranked teams for statewide bragging rights.
And on Wednesday afternoon’s state semifinal day, they watched as Bishop Moore steamrolled its way into the championship match.
When it was Berkeley’s turn, the Bucs sputtered against Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons but beat the state’s most decorated program — the Chiefs have won a state-record 18 state volleyball titles — in four games, 25-22, 25-8, 23-25, 25-21.
Now Berkeley’s chase for a bay area record-tying 15th state title meets a Bishop Moore team that is 30-1, ranked eighth in the nation and has suffered its past two losses to Berkeley — including last year’s 3A state semifinal in five games.
“We know what we have to do,” Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino said. “I love the chemistry, the fortitude that this team has. It just seems that when we’re pushed we’re able to raise it to another level until we are able to get it done.”
The Buccaneers (29-2, ranked No. 6 in the nation by MaxPreps) were pushed by Cardinal Gibbons. It appeared Berkeley was heading to a sweep after the Bucs had just one attack error in the second game, but the Chiefs adjusted their block — they totaled 21 — to take the third game then take a 7-3 lead in the fourth.
“At that point it’s less about putting on a show and more about doing what you came here to do, and that’s playing the game of volleyball,” said senior setter Mackenzie Dagostino. “We really realized that in that fourth game.”
Outside hitter Jordan Burgess then made nine of her match-high 25 kills to steal back momentum. In a flash, the Bucs turned a four-point deficit into a five-point lead at 16-11.
“It didn’t feel like it was that bad,” said Chiefs setter Caiti Donahoe. “I thought it was 12-12, and then you look at the scoreboard and it’s 16-11. It happened fast.”
Burgess led the Bucs with 21 digs, and Dagostino had 46 assists, 12 digs and nine kills. Sophomore outside hitter Sidney Brown added 15 kills and 13 digs.
After the match, the Bucs handled their hiccup with ease, knowing they won’t get caught off guard Thursday with so much on the line.
“Now that it happened, I think it will be good for us to know that we can’t just cruise through games,” Burgess said. “So I think it will prepare us better.”
Silver Spurs Arena, Kissimmee. Admission is $9 per session.
Wednesday’s 4A results
Berkeley Prep d. Cardinal Gibbons 25-22, 25-8, 23-25, 25-21
Orlando Bishop Moore d. Jacksonville Bolles 25-17, 25-20, 25-16
Thursday’s 4A final
Berkeley Prep vs. Orlando Bishop Moore, 8 p.m.