DELAND — The slimmest of margins separated Berkeley Prep and Melbourne West Shore on Thursday afternoon on a sun-splashed soccer field at Stetson University.
Unfortunately for Berkeley, the sliver of difference led to a huge heartache in a 1-0 loss, a fact that raised tears when the Bucs watched West Shore raise the Class 2A state title trophy.
"I still believe we are the better team," Berkeley Prep senior Max Lerner said. "But today West Shore played just a little better than us, and today that was all the difference."
Lerner was extra frustrated when talking about a shot he took in the game's sixth minute, one he fired from 18 yards, a bullet that sailed inches over the crossbar.
"I was (leaning back) a little and it was just enough to (cause the miss)," Lerner said. "That could have made a huge difference."
Lerner had another chance in the 79th minute when he narrowly missed on a header amid a scrum a few feet in front of West Shore's goal.
Both were split-second reaction plays, and, like the game, could have gone either way.
The lone goal for West Shore (21-4) came in the 60th minute after Berkeley missed by inches on a steal only to leave Wildcat Amugo Chukwunenye one-on-one with Bucs goalkeeper Andrew Koch.
"That was really the only decent chance they had the whole game," said Koch, who made four saves. "But they took advantage of it. (Chukwunenye) hit it good. There wasn't much I could do to stop it."
For Berkeley (21-4-3) it was another relatively recent near miss at a state title. The Bucs also lost championship games by a goal in 2009 and 2012, the latter to West Shore.
"It hurts really bad to come so close and lose in the (state title game)," said Bucs coach Time Cooper, in his 11th year at Berkeley. "But I can't say anything but good things about this team. I couldn't be more proud of all of them.
"This is the same group that lost in the district semifinals the past two years only to keep fighting and keep getting better. It just so happened that today wasn't our day."
Cooper didn't make any excuses for Thursday's loss, though his lineup was compromised because key midfielder Ezrick Nichols played only a few minutes after pulling his hamstring in the state semifinal.
For the overall record, it marked the fourth straight year a team from the Tampa Bay area has failed to win a state soccer title. The last local team to take home a state title was Tampa Prep in 2013.
Tampa Catholic lost in last year's Class 2A state final, 3-2 to Ransom Everglades.