Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Sports

Berkeley Prep boys volleyball coach wants to raise profile of the game

TAMPA

In the span of nearly three decades of coaching girls volleyball at Berkeley Prep, Randy Dagostino seemingly has accomplished almost everything.

Almost.

"The next step is to help put boys volleyball on the map and grow it in this area," Dagostino said. "It thrives in other places around the state. Why not here?"

And that's the question one of the most decorated coaches in the history of girls volleyball is trying to answer. Dagostino, who recently retired from coaching the Buccaneers girls team after capturing 15 state titles in 28 seasons, is in the process of making boys volleyball relevant at the high school level in Hillsborough County.

"My goal," he said, "is to make an impact."

The Florida High School Athletic Association currently oversees 118 schools in boys volleyball. The bulk of those call either Broward or Dade County home. Berkeley Prep, the only Tampa Bay area school with a high school boys program, also stands as the lone school west of Orlando to field a team. Dagostino, who compiled a staggering 829-161 record with the girls team, said that he can envision a scenario one day where the sport catches on in Hillsborough County.

"Because I have been around so long, I can remember the days when girls volleyball wasn't a very big deal around here," he said. "In 1983, Tampa was no volleyball hotbed, believe me."

Dagostino, who has been named Florida High School Athletic Association Coach of the Year seven times and Florida Dairy Farmers Coach of the Year three more times, started the boys program four years ago. After a provisional season, the Bucs became state-series eligible the next year.

"It's stereotypically a girls sport," outside hitter Nick Burgess said. "We're trying to bring to light that the guys' game is exciting and athletic."

Because no other local teams play, the Bucs travel up to two hours one-way to face teams in their district such as Bishop Moore, Apopka and Orlando Edgewater.

"We don't mind the travel too much because we do things to keep us entertained, and I think it brings us closer as a team," setter Kyle Dagostino said. "We'll have freestyle rap contests and play card games. It's a good way to interact with the whole team."

But Randy Dagostino would prefer those district matches to be crosstown trips instead.

"To me, for the school systems to pick this sport up is a no-brainer," he said. "They already have the equipment in place because of the girl's teams. The gyms aren't being used (during the spring). There would be very little expense."

Dagostino isn't sure how long it will take for the boys game to catch on around here, but he believes it will be sooner than later.

"We need to get the right people out to watch this game because I'm telling you, they would be shocked at the level of athleticism," he said. "It's a dynamic game."

Kyle Dagostino said winning a state title would go a long way in helping to get the sport established in the area. The 19-2 Bucs open up district play on Tuesday with an eye on the state finals May 11-12 in Kissimmee.

"If we can finish up the season as successfully as we think we can, it will help grow interest in the sport and create an opportunity to get more teams around here," he said. "We are ambassadors."

Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]

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