Volleyball: Bucs can't keep up with champs

By JOE SMITH, Times Staff Writer
Published November 15, 2007

LAKELAND - Berkeley Prep coach Randy Dagostino said his staff came into preseason camp "scratching our heads" with one lingering question: "How are we going to fill those spots?"

The Bucs, coming off their second straight final four appearance, had graduated three seniors; another starter transferred to Plant.

What the 25-year coaching veteran had left was one of his youngest rosters, which included five sophomores, three freshmen and two eighth-graders, but a ton of talent.

Another final four trip? "I wouldn't have said that, not then," he said.

Dagostino's young Bucs defied the odds, but for the third straight season here couldn't defeat power Lake Highland Prep. The two-time defending state champion Highlanders beat Berkeley Prep 25-21, 19-25, 25-17, 25-22 in the 3A semifinals Wednesday at the Lakeland Center, snapping the Bucs' 13-match win streak.

"I'm really at a loss, almost," said Bucs sophomore Alex Dickerson. "I think we pysched ourselves out a little bit, like, 'Oh my God, it's states. It's the Lakeland Center,' and just freak out. It's hard being young."

It's harder topping the Highlanders (23-6). Before the Bucs could blink, Lake Highland snatched Game 1. Hitters Megan Gaughn (23 kills) and Amanda Saxton (56 percent attack percentage) peppered the Bucs corners.

The Bucs sophomore hitters - Dickerson (13 kills), Chelsea Parker (13) and Lindsay Young (12) - tried to counter. That's when the Highlanders would stun the Bucs with one-handed digs.

"Lake Highland has been better than us the last three years," Dagostino said. "But remember, we have won at the state tournament before."

The Bucs have 12 state titles (last one in 2003). And with their young talent, it might not be long before their next one.

Game balls

Chelsea Parker, So., Berkeley Prep: The outside hitter, along with Alex Dickerson, was one of the Bucs' most consistent hitters (40 percent).

Amber Mirabello, Fr., Berkeley Prep: The 6-foot middle blocker had a great overall performance.

Lake Highland Prep d. Berkeley Prep

25-21, 19-25, 25-17, 25-22