The Berkeley Prep (Tampa, Fla.)
Buccaneers repeated as the Florida 3A state champions, winning the 14th volleyball state championship in school history. As has been the norm for much of the season, Jordan Burgess
and MacKenzie Dagostino
led the way.
Burgess, a 6-0 junior hitter, had 30 kills and 21 digs in the Buccaneers' 3-1 win over North Broward Prep while Dagostino had 45 assists, 16 digs and 11 kills. The two have been the team leaders in guiding Berkeley Prep to a 30-2 record on the year: Burgess led the team in kills with 540 while Dagostino paced the offense with 1,018 assists and 39 aces.
The state championship is a culmination of the goals both Burgess and Dagostino set out for the team early in the season.
"My goal and mindset is the same as we had last year – to win," said Dagostino. "We are a tough team to beat because we never let our intensity down. Every point matters to us 100 percent. One point can cost us the game, so we play every point like it's our last."
"Our goal was to win the state championship," said Burgess. "We strive for consistent ball control and we are fairly good at serve-receive and defense."
Both Burgess and Dagostino agreed that Bishop Moore was Berkeley Prep's toughest competition this year. The Buccaneers disposed of Bishop Moore in the semifinals 3-2 before advancing to the finals.
"They have quality players at every position and they have a lot of experienced club level players," said Burgess.
Burgess and Dagostino have started on the varsity the past three seasons and have racked up a number of awards. Burgess was the Florida Dairy Farmers' Class 3A Player of the Year as a sophomore and also earned all-district, all-county and all-state honors. Likewise, Dagostino earned all-area and all-state honors last season.
Both Burgess and Dagostino credit family members with helping in their development as volleyball players. For Burgess, it was her brother and for Dagostino, her father Randy Dagostino, the former Berkeley Prep coach.
"My brother has been really influential in helping me develop," said Burgess. " I have a twin brother named Nick and he has always played with me. We have always been really close and super competitive so when I started playing, it was no surprise that he did too. More than anything else, he has pushed me to keep getting better and better."
"No other coach or person has pushed me harder than my dad," said Dagostino. "Even though there are times we butt heads or disagree, in the end of it all I know that he will be the best thing that happened to me during my volleyball seasons. I grew up always having people telling me what an amazing coach he is and how much he really does know about the game, but it's hard to believe until you see it yourself. His passion for the game exceeds anyone I have ever met and his want to make players better never ends."
While Burgess describes ball control and quickness as her biggest strength as a player, Dagostino mentions intensity as her strongest attribute.
"I don't stop playing until the game is over and even then I think about what I could have done better," said Dagostino. "I play with full out energy. Since I've been playing for so long and have been around it my whole life I have the luck of being able to really know the game inside and out."
Although both players are juniors, Dagostino has already committed to play at the University of Maryland while Burgess is still waiting to make her decision.
"It is something that I have always wanted to do and I've pushed myself hard enough to make it," said Dagostino. "I know I am a strong enough setter but there are always things you can improve, no one player is perfect. Division 1 volleyball has been my dream and I have finally made it."
Burgess is also looking forward to playing at a top Division 1 program.
"Division 1 volleyball is really competitive and I can't wait to have a chance to compete at that level," said Burgess. "I dream of playing on the Olympic team, and hope that a challenging D1 experience will be a huge step toward that goal."
Both Burgess and Dagostino relish the high school experience, but for different reasons.
"High school volleyball has been a blast," said Burgess. "Having a practice or a game every day on top of working out and a challenging academic schedule, really builds my endurance and prepares me for the next level. So in many ways, high school volleyball challenges me to be the best I can be."
"It forms a family," added Dagostino. "Just like any sport it's a group of girls that you can constantly fall back on. It's great being part of this team because it feels like we carry the Berkeley sports department sometimes; we go to all the games we can for other sports, and we support anyone we can. They are just such a great group of girls to work and play with that it makes it the best sport in the world, at least to me. I couldn't ask for a better team."