TAMPA — In its spiffy new gym, under its not-so-new head coach, Berkeley Prep finally got back to its winning ways.
The Buccaneers, three-time defending Class 4A champion, defeated Academy of the Holy Names 25-9, 19-25, 25-16, 25-18 Tuesday night for their first win of the season. Star junior outside hitter Sidney Brown led the way with 27 kills, 13 digs and three aces.
Berkeley Prep’s victory snapped a three-game losing streak to open the season (though two came in the preseason) and provided the punctuation for the unveiling of the school’s new 53,000-square-foot Straz Family Field House.
“Now it feels like I’ve got that monkey off my (back),” said first-year coach John Coup. “We’ve played some darn good competition, but we’re not used to starting off like this.”
Of course, the slow start has been just one of many changes for the Buccaneers.
Berkeley Prep was also looking for its first victory since the retirement of Randy Dagostino, who led the Buccaneers to 15 state titles in 28 years including a closing streak of three straight.
During his tenure, Dagostino built Berkeley Prep into one of the top high school programs in the nation, going 829-161 to rank 33rd on the National Federation of State High School Association’s all-time girls volleyball coaching wins list.
But under Coup, Berkeley Prep has stumbled out of the gate. The Buccaneers dropped their first three matches, including a rematch of the 4A state title match against Orlando Bishop Moore.
Dagostino has been there all along. Tuesday, he was sitting in the first assistant coach’s seat and shouting instructions to both Coup and the players. Little has changed for the team, Coup joked, but for the fact that he stands during games now and Dagostino sits.
The Bucs’ match Tuesday night against district foe Holy Names provided a glimpse of their championship form.
Berkeley Prep raced out to a 25-9 win in the first game, powered by six kills from Brown. Holy Names bounced back in the second, capitalizing on a number of errors and sloppy play from the Buccaneers.
“I was proud of our girls and the way they responded,” Holy Names coach Jeff Davis said.
But in the end, the difference was Brown. At one point in the fourth game, she scored six straight points — all on kills.
“That’s how you want to close,” Brown said.