LAKELAND — Christina Theofilos says she feels like she's been on the Berkeley Prep volleyball team forever. The Buccaneers senior setter came up to the varsity as an eighth grader, and her final high school game today could be her most memorable.
The past three years, Berkeley's season ended with a loss at the Lakeland Center. The same court that has held so much disappointment could be the site of the Bucs' first state championship win since 2003.
"I will take winning states my senior year over any year," said Theofilos, the Bucs' sole starting senior. "It would just feel amazing."
The Bucs, ranked 14th in the nation by prepvolleyball.com, advanced to today's 2:30 p.m. state final by beating Miami Florida Christian 25-11, 25-12, 25-15, led by freshman Jordan Burgess' 14 kills, 11 digs and thee aces. To win their 13th state championship, the Bucs (28-2) will have to go through a familiar roadblock: Orlando Lake Highland Prep (24-7). The Highlanders have ended the Bucs' season the past three years, last year in the state semis and two years before in the final.
"We've got some business to take care of (today)," Berkeley coach Randy Dagostino said.
Berkeley has beaten Lake Highland Prep twice this season, once in four games during the Berkeley Premier, then in three games in a home match. Those matches were much different than last year's state semifinal, when the Bucs said they let the spotlight of the state tournament get to them.
"We know that if we all play the best we can possibly play, it will go our way; it just seems the past three years, we pretty much play the (Lakeland) Center instead of the team on the other side of the net," said Theofilos, who had 30 assists Friday. "Last year, we just beat ourselves. I don't think we could make two positive points in a row."
Berkeley can end the Highlanders' run of three straight state titles, and in the process give Theofilos, their two-year floor captain, a win to remember before she heads off to play at Notre Dame.
"This is everything she's worked for," junior middle hitter Lindsay Young (nine kills) said of Theofilos. "It's not just about winning the state championship. It's about winning for her."