TAMPA — Based on its record entering the district tournament two weeks ago, Berkeley Prep seemed to have no business contending for a playoff berth, much less an appearance in the Class 2A region final.
The Bucs were 4-10-5 at the start of districts but have since won five straight, the latest Tuesday’s 2-1 win over rival Clearwater Central Catholic in the region semifinals.
Berkeley Prep faces Bishop Verot in Friday’s region final, marking the fifth time in the past seven seasons they have met in the playoffs.
“This is kind of the same thing we go through each year,” said Bucs coach Tim Cooper, who has guided the program to seven straight region final appearances. “Our record is rough but most of the teams we played are still alive in the playoffs. That schedule has prepared us.”
The playoff run has been keyed by a stellar defense, which has allowed just three goals in the past five games. In the first half of Tuesday’s game, the offense did its part as Quinton Kauchick and Kyle Dagostino each scored to give Berkeley Prep a 2-0 lead.
In the second half, the Marauders tried to rally by pushing the pace but couldn’t convert on their chances. That was due mostly to the play of Buccaneer goalkeeper Ben Milliken, who thwarted several shots.
Milliken’s biggest play came in the final three minutes when he stopped a penalty kick by Kevin Harris, then stopped another shot on the reflection.
“(Harris) scored on me in a similar situation earlier this season and went to his right,” Milliken said. “He did it again and this time I was ready for it.”
CCC’s lone goal came in the final minute by Alex Thompson.
“I thought we played well,” Marauders coach Frank Seidl said. “We just weren’t able to convert on our opportunities.”