CLEARWATER — Tuesday's much-anticipated match between Berkeley Prep and Clearwater Central Catholic, teams with state tournament hopes, turned out to be a one-sided affair. The Marauders jumped on the Buccaneers early and never let up in a 25-18, 25-20, 25-18 win.
Berkeley Prep (17-6) was playing without one of its biggest frontline threats, Addison Harden, who sustained a concussion in the Buccaneers’ last match. She will return for Thursday’s match against Seacrest Country Day.
With CCC (18-3) at full strength, even a healthy Berkeley team would have struggled. The Marauders jumped out to an early first-game lead and never looked back.
In the second game, CCC held a slim 13-12 lead and won a marathon point to stay ahead. From there, the Marauders scored 11 of the final 18 points to take a two-game lead.
The third game was much of the same. With CCC’s frontline frustrating the Buccaneers, the Marauders jumped out to a 22-10 lead. Berkeley Prep mounted a comeback before falling short.
“I thought we had a great chance to win even if they were healthy,” CCC coach Stephen Shepherd said. “I know Addison is a big part of their team, but even with her I thought we had a chance. They still have two great outside hitters in Sidney Brown and Logan Weldon, and they have Maddie Raquet on the right side. With players like that, anything can happen.
“What I thought we did was we kept them out of system all night. They were running around sending us free balls instead of us sending free balls to them and having them come back at us. That was huge.”
Katie Moore led CCC with 12 kills. Shea Hamilton added 12 kills and Sara Brown had seven. Moore also had four blocks. Maria Jose Amundaray chipped in with 15 digs.
“We were working well in the middle and on the outside,” Amundaray said. “We played well against their defense. You know it’s going to be tough competition when you play against Berkeley.”
Berkeley coach John Coup said his team was looking forward to playing at CCC but didn’t play nearly well enough to win.
“We were prepared to play physically but we weren’t mentally prepared to play,” he said. “Not having Addie, it made it tough for us to offset their middle with our middle. But that’s part of the game. They did a good job of taking advantage of our inexperience in the middle.”
With the district tournament starting next week, Shepherd cautioned his team about being overconfident.
“I told them it was a great win but we have to have a short memory,” he said. “This isn’t the playoffs. They aren’t in our classification. It’s a steppingstone. I don’t want them to ever think they’ve arrived because if you think you’ve arrived then you start to lose.”