TAMPA — There were a few bumps in the road during the Berkeley Prep volleyball team’s journey to the Class 4A state final four this season.
The Buccaneers lost in an upset to its biggest rival Tampa Prep, the first loss to the Terrapins in nine years. Berkeley Prep also lost in their district championship to another local rival, Academy of the Holy Names, marking the first time the Jaguars defeated Berkeley since 1981.
Looking back, however, the Bucs perceive those bumps in the road as reroutes to a better path.
“If anything, it helped us,” said senior outside hitter Sidney Brown, the Stanford signee who leads the Bucs with 415 kills. “We needed that kick in the butt.”
Berkeley Prep (22-7) will go for its 16th state title and fourth in the past five years when the team takes on Orlando Lake Highland Prep (21-8) in the state semifinals at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee today at 3 p.m.
“We expect the team to get to the final four every year,” Brown said. “Usually, we’ve had the absolute talent and the cohesiveness to get there easily and really without a challenge, but this year, we had some slip-ups and we’ve used them to get better and let ourselves know that we’re not going to get this easy, we have to work for it. It’s not going to be like the years before.”
Berkeley lost to consensus No. 1 nationally ranked Orlando Bishop Moore in the 4A final last year. Berkeley defeated Bishop Moore the year before to win the program’s 15th title.
“They got a taste of it as players and they want to go back and redeem themselves from last year,” Berkeley prep coach John Coup said. “It’s not like we lost to a bad team last year. We haven’t played our best volleyball yet this year but we’re getting there. We’re getting closer and closer every week.”
The Buccaneers will be facing an opponent with a long, shared history. Each year between 2005 and 2008, Orlando Lake Highland Prep defeated Berkeley Prep in the state final four, three times in the state final and once in the semifinals. The Buccaneers defeated the Highlanders earlier this season, 3-1.
Along with Brown, several players from the 2012 title team are now seniors. Senior Logan Weldon has 280 kills and senior middle hitter Addison Harden has 178 kills and a team-high 52 blocks. Senior setter Maddi Alberdi has controlled the offense with 948 assists.
“For Berkeley and everything it has given me as school and as a program, it’s what I deserve to give back to it as a player,” Brown said. “And I think what all the girls deserve, is a last hurrah.”