LAKELAND — During the late 1980s and throughout the '90s when Berkeley Prep's trips to the state tournament regularly ended with championship trophies, people used to ask Bucs coach Randy Dagostino if winning ever got old.
"I always thought in the back of my mind that something could happen and you'd never win another one," Dagostino said. "So I always told those people no."
The past four seasons he brought the same powerful teams to the Lakeland Center but left empty-handed — an annual roadblock for Lake Highland Prep's path to state glory. Players came and left, believing Berkeley was a title factory, but never winning here.
"We've had some teams that I thought were good enough and we didn't win," Dagostino said.
Thursday brought redemption — Berkeley Prep's 13th state title, and its first since 2003, beating Melbourne Holy Trinity in three sets 25-22, 25-20, 25-19.
"I can't believe it. We've been talking about this all season, but we've never done this before, actually come here and won," senior middle hitter Lindsay Young said. "There's nothing like it. It's so unreal."
For a group of players that has been through the halls of the Lakeland Center every year to have their season end with their heads hung, the Buccaneers (29-3) had to overcome jitters again — not to mention a Holy Trinity team looking to write its own history after ending Lake Highland's reign in the region tournament.
"You've just got to push that thought to the back of your head and tell yourself you're so much better than that," sophomore setter Mackenzie Dagostino said.
And the Tigers (23-6) gave Berkeley one of its toughest matches. Holy Trinity's 6-foot outside hitters gave the Bucs trouble on the block and led Berkeley 12-7 in the second game. After a time out, Berkeley began working the ball to Young in the middle on quick sets. The Bucs scored seven of the next eight points and didn't look back.
Sophomore Jordan Burgess led Berkeley with 12 kills, followed by Mackenzie Dagostino, who had 11 kills and just one attack error. Young had seven of her nine kills after that second-game time out.
Chelsea Parker added 18 digs, followed by Natasha Rowland with 13 and Burgess with 12. Setter Ginny Willis had 15 assists and Dagostino added 14.
And when the Tigers' final attack attempt hit into the net, the Berkeley players fell to the floor.
Suddenly the place that held so much disappointment was the best place in the world to be.
"I just lost feeling in my legs," Mackenzie Dagostino said. "I couldn't believe it actually happened. We worked for it. We waited so long for it."