TAMPA — Change is inevitable at the high school level.
Every four years, players come and go. Batches of wide-eyed freshmen enter as a group of tearful seniors depart, with some leaving behind bigger holes than others.
In Berkeley Prep’s case, that hole looks more like a chasm.
“You just don’t see teams graduate the national player of the year and the national setter of the year,” Berkeley Prep coach John Coup said. “That just doesn’t happen.”
Yet it did with the departure of Buccaneers Jordan Burgess and Mackenzie Dagostino, winners of the Gatorade Player of the Year and Andi Collins Award, respectively. That duo helped the Bucs win their third straight state title last year.
“The reason why we’ve been so good for so long,” Coup said, “is because every single player works so hard, year in and year out. They understand nothing is given.”
The next Berkeley Prep player to assume the spotlight is Sidney Brown. The junior outside hitter was second on the team last year behind Burgess with 346 kills.
“We look at this like it’s our time,” Brown said. “It was such an honor to watch Jordan and Mackenzie and learn how to be a champion from them.”
The Bucs also return their pair of 6-foot middle blockers, Addison Harden and Jessica Silva, to clog up center court. Coup also said he expects big jumps for some players who will see more playing time this year, including Logan Weldon, Maddie Alberdi and the versatile Hannah Lindsey, whom Coup calls “his sixth man off the bench, like in basketball.”
“A lot of these girls knew how to play their role last year,” Coup said. “Now it’s time for them to step up.”
And that’s the way it is for Coup, who takes the reins after legendary Randy Dagostino stepped down in April following 15 state titles. Coup, who served as Dagostino’s assistant for 14 seasons, said the seven-time FHSAA coach of the year and Hall of Fame inductee has made the transition as smooth as possible.
“Over the last year he’s been involved more in the administrative things that go along with being the head coach,” Coup said. “He’s been gearing me up.”
And if all that change isn’t enough, the team will get to christen their new digs this year. Berkeley Prep’s 53,000 square foot field house, which includes gymnasiums, locker rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness room and athletic training facilities, will be the new home for the volleyball team — a squad that sees a fourth straight state championship well within reach.
“It even has ice baths that get down to 40 degrees without ice,” Brown said of the new field house. “I have no doubt we have the talent to compete for another state title. This is our time.”