Even after a state title Berkeley Prep remains determined to remove the sting of previous defeats.
By BRANDON WRIGHT
Published September 10, 2004
TAMPA - Berkeley Prep's Katie Theofilos vividly remembers the feeling as she walked off the court at the Lakeland Civic Center.
"Emotionally, it was such a big letdown," Theofilos said. "It seemed like all the hard work we'd put in during the previous three or four months was all useless."
Gainesville's P.K. Yonge had just beaten Berkeley Prep for the 2002 Class 2A state championship and though Theofilos, a sophomore at the time, was dejected, her emotions began to sway.
"Even though we lost, I wanted to use that to drive me and provide motivation for next year," she said.
Theofilos and the Bucs did just that, avenging the loss with a state championship win against P.K. Yonge last year. Though revenge was sweet, Theofilos and fellow senior Anne Miller have not forgotten the 2002 defeat.
"It was so disappointing to see the seniors walk off the court because for some it was their last (competitive) game," Miller said. "Now we're seniors and I want to make sure we win our last game because that will mean another state championship."
And with the core of last year's championship team back - including the return of a healthy Janet Okogbaa - all signs point to Miller and Theofilos walking off the court in Lakeland for the final time as winners again.
"Are we good enough and do we have enough talent to repeat? Yes. But we'll have to see how it plays out," Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino said.
And if anyone should know what it takes, it's Dagostino, who has been at Berkeley Prep since 1984. During that 20-year span, Dagostino has guided the Bucs to 12 state titles.
"We've got a lot weapons," Dagostino said.
One will be a familiar face. Okogbaa, a 6-foot-3 junior, missed last season with a back injury. But the outside hitting powerhouse returned this summer and was named tournament MVP of Dagostino's (under) 16 Black Tampa Bay Juniors Volleyball Club that was the first Florida team ever to win a club level national championship.
"Janet is the best position player in the country," Dagostino said. "She's a force and teams have to key on her."
Joining Okogbaa on the attacking frontline is fellow junior Jessica Glover and Miller. Dagostino said Miller, named captain along with Theofilos and Lacey Raymond, is "our most complete player right now."
"It was a real credit to these girls and the leadership displayed last year that we could win (state) without Janet," Dagostino said.
For seniors like Theofilos and Miller, this is their last chance to win another state title and help erase the memory of 2002.
"This is it for (the seniors) and we want to go out with a bang," Miller said.