The Berkeley Prep volleyball team wandered the hallways of the Sun Dome on Saturday, looking for a place to gather before being pointed into the locker room of the third-ranked college team in the nation, the Washington Huskies.
The Buccaneers, ranked 13th in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com, took the floor as the high school prelude to Saturday's Tampa Twice collegiate event, which itself was a momentum-builder for this year's NCAA Women's Volleyball Final Four in Tampa.
The players watched from the stands Friday. On Saturday against state power Venice, Berkeley showed why it is Florida's highest ranked high school team.
"We have kids on both of these teams that are going to be playing at the next level, and this was a neat way, sort of a segue, for them to see how that's going to feel," Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino said.
"And this is a prelude to playing in the Lakeland Center (in the state tournament). Playing here in an arena like this, maybe it gives you a little more advantage over other teams."
It took just three sets to dispatch the Indians, 25-17, 25-23, 25-22, but the Buccaneers (5-0) needed a pair of late-game rallies.
After taking the first game, Berkeley trailed 14-11 in the second before winning eight of the next 10 points. Venice rallied late and the teams were even at 23 until Berkeley sophomore outside hitter Jordan Burgess put the game away with two kills.
Burgess led Berkeley with 14 kills and was particularly effective once the Buccaneers opened up the court by setting senior middle blocker Lindsay Young (nine kills) midway through the second game. This allowed Burgess to hit against just one blocker.
"Anytime you can go to the middle, whether it's a kill or not, it's going to make the defense think it could go there," Venice coach Brian Wheatley said. "You give Jordan an open shot and most of the time she's going to put it on the floor."
Berkeley then broke open an 18-all third game with four straight points. That was enough cushion to pull away.
Buccaneers sophomore setter MacKenzie Dagostino had 22 assists and six blocks, while libero Natasha Rowland led Berkeley with 17 digs. .
Venice (5-1) was playing its second match against a nationally ranked team in as many days. On Friday, the Indians beat Tallahassee Leon, ranked No. 74 in the same poll, in three games.