Academy of the Holy Names had a goal in Thursday night's Class 3A, District 9 final against Berkeley Prep. The Jaguars wanted to hang around until late in the match, and maybe, just maybe, they could spring an upset of the powerful Buccaneers.
It almost worked.
After forcing a deciding third game, the Jaguars led 11-6 and had the Bucs on the ropes. But Berkeley Prep came back strong and won the game and the match, 15-7, 14-16, 16-14 at Clearwater Central Catholic.
Berkeley Prep (19-10) will host a regional quarterfinal Tuesday against the runner-up in District 10. Academy of the Holy Names (20-11) will play on the road against the District 10 winner.
"Academy isn't going to make many mistakes," Berkeley coach Randy Dagostino said. "We took some good swings at them but they hit them back. That's the kind of team they are."
After the first game, it looked as if things would be easy for the Bucs. Berkeley Prep won behind the serving and net play of Delavane Diaz and the powerful spikes of Jessica Riester.
But in the second game, the Jaguars would not go away. Trailing 6-1, the Jaguars began chipping away at the deficit. Then, Sarah Tarrant rattled off seven straight service points to give the Jaguars a 12-8 lead.
The Bucs tied the score at 14, but two unforced errors by Berkeley Prep gave AHN a 16-14 win.
The third game was much of the same. There were six lead changes before the match was tied at 14. Fittingly for Berkeley, the match ended with two straight kills by Riester.
"We lost to (Berkeley) the first time we played them," Jaguars' coach Gregg Latter said. "So all I wanted us to do was play well. If we can play with that team, we can play with any team in the state."