TAMPA — Host Berkeley Prep came into its eight-team Berkeley Premier volleyball tournament as the defending champion and the top-ranked team in the nation by ESPN and MaxPreps. Louisville (Ky.) Mercy was ranked in the top 25 in both polls.
The teams gave a performance fitting of their status, with Mercy squeezing out a 21-25, 25-21, 25-17, 16-25, 19-17 victory in Saturday's final and handing the Bucs their first loss of the season.
"This is volleyball, in high school, at its highest level," Bucs coach Randy Dagostino said. "Obviously, losing 19-17 in the fifth isn't a slouch on our part."
After trailing 9-6, Berkeley (13-1) rallied for a 13-12 lead. But the Bucs faltered when a block by Mercy's Lauren Schneidtmiller served as the go-ahead point at 18-17 in the rally scoring format.
"They just have great chemistry," Dagostino said. "You know what? So do we. They just have two points better chemistry than we do."
In the semifinals, Berkeley Prep defeated Huntsville, Ala., 25-20, 22-25, 25-15, 25-13 and Mercy beat Bishop Moore (Louisville, Ky.) 25-22, 19-25, 25-16, 25-16.
The Bucs will continue to be tested by high-caliber teams as this was the first of three straight weekend tourneys. Berkeley Prep will be in Chicago next.
"We feel like this was a stepping stone for us to play on a national level," the coach said.
Leading the way for Berkeley Prep was Jordan Burgess. The senior outside hitter had 44 kills.
"She put on a show tonight," Dagostino said of Burgess, voted the most valuable player. "She wanted the ball every single time."
Mackenzie Dagostino added 61 assists for the Bucs, who also got 42 digs from Natasha Rowland and 19 kills from Amber Mirabello. Dagostino and Mirabello were named to the all-tournament team, which included: Mercy's Jewell Dobson, Amanda Crask and Ally Wilbourn; Plant's Alex Johnson; Tampa Prep's Gabby Fernandez; Venice's Autumn Dunn; Martin County's Nicole Walch; Huntsville's Jessica Lewis and Kenzie Broome; Bishop Moore's Lindsey Owens and Carolina Rivas.