KISSIMMEE — The last time Tarpon Springs appeared in the state volleyball tournament, Spongers players Kelsi Collins and Ashlyn MacGregor hadn't been born.
And heading into this season, the Spongers didn't think they had a chance of playing in the state tournament at Silver Spurs Arena. But Thursday night they were in the spotlight — their first state appearance since 1993 — playing state power Fort Myers in the 6A semifinal. It was a far cry from Tarpon's home gym, which Collins termed as "cozy."
"Walking in here it was like, 'Wow, we're playing in here?' " Collins said. "But once we stepped on the court it was just volleyball from there. There weren't any distractions. The crowd is load but we have that at our place. The lights are bright, but we have that, too. Once you start playing, it's volleyball."
The Spongers weren't distracted early, taking a quick 7-1 lead on the Green Wave in the opening game. But that's when experience took over.
Three game later, Tarpon Springs was sent home, 25-20, 25-21, 25-18.
"We have a taste of it now," Collins said. "Who would think Tarpon Springs would be in the state playoffs? I know I didn't. I wanted to, but I didn't think so. Now that we've got a taste, I think we'll train a little harder to get back."
"A catalyst," Tarpon coach Patrick Sneed called it.
MacGregor led the Spongers (25-4) with nine kills and seven blocks. Collins added six kills and 18 digs, while setter Jenn Smith has 18 assists, 11 digs and four blocks. Kelly Lorenz also had 18 digs.
But Tarpon didn't have an answer for the Green Wave's middle hitters. Six-foot-2 sophomore Chelsea Oliver had 12 kills and 5-11 senior Alyssa Goldenhart had 10 kills. Rachel Schaaf led Fort Myers with 14 kills.
"We just gave them too many easy balls back and anybody will tell you, once you're in system and you have your studs up there, they know what to do with it," Sneed said. "They had the advantage because they were more consistent to it than we were."
Berkeley Prep wins 15th title
Berkeley Prep (30-2), ranked No. 6 in the nation by MaxPreps, ended the season with its third straight state championship, beating MaxPreps No. 8 Orlando Bishop Moore 25-15, 25-18, 15-25, 25-16.
It was the program's 15th state crown, tying Tampa Prep for the most in bay area history.
It marked the third title for seniors Jordan Burgess (team-high 15 kills and 13 digs) and Mackenzie Dagostino (30 assists, 13 kills, eight digs and eight blocks), who ended their Berkeley careers as the school's leaders in kills and assists, respectively.
"This was business," said Dagostino, who will play at Maryland next year. "This is what we worked for. It was a news flash (Wednesday). If we had played like that today, Bishop Moore would have had us.
"We knew we had to step our game up. And we had a flash of that in the third set when we just let points go. In a match like this you can't ever take a point off."
Junior middle blocker Jessica Silva's eight blocks took Bishop Moore's top hitter, junior Lindsey Owens, out of her game. Senior Katie O'Drobinak had 13 digs and three service aces.
The Buccaneers grabbed momentum early, taking 13 of the opening game's final 14 points. And despite a hiccup in the third, Berkeley ran out to a 6-0 lead in the fourth and never looked back.
On the last point of the match, Burgess, a Stanford recruit, stepped behind the serving line and nostalgia hit her.
"I thought to myself that this is the last point I will ever play in a Berkeley uniform," she said. "I got a little emotional."