TAMPA — Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino called it “a classic match.” The near-capacity crowd agreed, giving both nationally-ranked teams a standing ovation after the conclusion.
Berkeley Prep lived on its offense. East Lake countered with defense. The former prevailed Friday night, when senior hitter Jordan Burgess sealed the Buccaneers’ 22-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-17, 18-16 victory in a showdown between state champions.
“I thought East Lake put up the toughest (regular-season) fight that we’ve been in quite a long while,” Dagostino said. “It was a classic match. The momentum shifts during the match weren’t large, but just enough for a team that’s playing really well — maybe — to gain a couple of points here or there.
“I thought the key was in games four and five. …We finally matched the intensity that I saw on East Lake’s side of the net the whole night. East Lake was playing so incredibly tough on defense, it just seemed like we needed three or four or five swings every time to score a point.”
Berkeley Prep (5-0), MaxPreps’ No. 3-ranked team in the nation, survived a match point when Burgess, a Stanford commit, tied the decisive game at 15 with a kill. Burgess ended the one-hour, 49-minute match with two more kills.
“It was a good test for us,” Burgess said. “(East Lake) played amazing, absolutely amazing. I give them tons of prop for that, and I thought our team came together really well.”
East Lake, 6-1 and ranked 14th by MaxPreps, didn’t give Berkeley Prep many openings. The Eagles strung their defense deep and their serve percentage was perfect on the final 70 attempts (96 of 99 overall).
“Obviously, we didn’t want to lose the match,” East Lake coach Mike Estes said. “I can’t ask for anything better (from my team). We knew we were in for a battle and I told the kids, ‘Let’s come out, play hard and get some respect.’ ”