After a down year, Tampa Prep once again has high hopes for a state title.
By SCOTT PURKS
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000
TAMPA -- For a school with a tradition like Tampa Prep, last year was the pits.
That's simply because for the first time since the early 1980s, a team other than powerhouse Berkeley Prep knocked the Terrapins out of the playoffs.
That spoiler was Northside Christian, which eliminated the Terrapins 16-18, 15-5, 15-11 in a Class 2A, District 11 semifinal -- a loss that still stings.
"Let's just say that we got that season under our belt," Tampa Prep coach Paul McAdoo said. "We saw last year coming, and we knew it was going to be a struggle. We were young (with four starting sophomores and an inexperienced junior and senior). So there was really no way to get through it except to go through it and learn from it.
"I definitely think we've done that."
Now the Terrapins are not only thinking about a district title (they've already defeated Northside 15-12, 15-7 in the district opener), but they're taking square aim at a state title. Just like old times.
"That's what the expectation level is around here," McAdoo said. "We have every intention of keeping Tampa Prep on top. Sure, we had a rough year, but now it's all about winning the state title again."
Looking at the state title banners (13 of them, ranking second only to Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons' 17), and the talent they have coming back, why wouldn't the Terrapins think that way?
This year, outside hitter Amber Langston and setter Justeen Patton should rack up kill and assist numbers that could rival anyone in the state.
Both of those players -- along with senior outside hitter Sara Swanson, senior middle blocker Gillian Brautigam and juniors Catherine Zidow and Jillian Hahn -- have improved dramatically since last season by playing with club teams and working out.
"We also got some transfers that will help," McAdoo said. "Suddenly, these girls showed up, and I was happy to see them."
The newcomers include 5-foot-11 junior outside hitter Morgan Mander from Zephyrhills, 5-9 Lara Schoomaker from Robinson and 5-6 defensive specialist Samantha Fleat from Academy of the Holy Names.
"They provide a good mix of athleticism and height," McAdoo said. "But the invaluable thing these new players give us is depth. Now we're able to play at a very high level at practice, which was something we sort of struggled at last year."
Will Tampa Prep end up being the county's team? Maybe. No doubt, three-time defending state champion Berkeley Prep will have plenty to say about that, particularly when the teams meet Sept. 15 at Berkeley.
"We're really looking forward to that one," McAdoo said. "It should be a typically great Tampa Prep-Berkeley Prep showdown."