By Rick Assad
Hoping to get back to a semblance of normalcy, the Burroughs High and Burbank girls’ volleyball teams expect to play a full season after having COVID-19 interrupt the previous campaign.
Instead of playing indoors on a hardwood surface, the Bears played outside and on grass and didn’t lose a Pacific League match in five attempts. There was no CIF Southern Section postseason.
Burroughs had two key players graduate and they include Catie Virtue, a four-year varsity outside hitter and Mariah Bowman, a two-year varsity opposite hitter.
Still, Edwin Real, who is entering his 18th season as the Bears’ coach, thinks this edition will have a productive season.
“Overall, I want them to be competitive in all matches, and win the league title and advance past the quarterfinals,” he said. “Our back row defense is good and we are steadily improving with our blocking. We should be solid once league play begins.”
The starters include 5-foot-9 inch senior setter and co-captain Meghan Lynch and 5-7 senior libero and the other co-captain, Charlotte Hobson.
One key element is the ability to pass the ball, which Real wants to see the team improve upon, so much rests on the shoulders of Lynch, who is ready and willing to take on the challenge.
“Our passing is average and we work on it each day in practice,” he said. “We will continue to focus on that throughout the season.”
The other starters are 6-1 senior outside hitter Heidi Collins, 6-1 senior outside hitter Bella Lomet, 6-0 junior outside hitter Kara Aldana-Pere, 5-9 junior outside hitter Janessa Wareebor and 5-8 sophomore middle blocker Tawnie Ohrt.
Those coming off the bench are 5-9 senior outside hitter Abby Dixon, 5-8 senior outside hitter Britney Mejia, 5-6 senior defensive specialist Kylie Colton and 5-6 defensive specialist Cassie Dolman.
The rest of the squad will be made up of 5-8 senior setter Penelope White, 5-8 junior middle blocker Caitlyn Mendoza, 5-7 junior setter Bri Munoz and 6-0 sophomore middle blocker Sadie Lomet.
Real also addressed another topic and that’s being able to play at high levels throughout the season.
“Passing is a definite key, as well as our serving,” he said. “Being consistent with our play, playing aggressive and playing as a team are also important.”
In Real’s mind, it’s going to take a supreme effort from everyone on the team.
“They’re all going to make an impact, plus Meghan, Charlotte, Heidi, Bella and Janessa,” he said.
With respect to the Bulldogs, their upperclassmen are going to have to step up according to Patrick Tyler, the coach.
“We’re relying heavily on our seniors to build the program into something competitive,” he said. “They’ve provided a lot of positive leadership and we’re excited to see how they react.”
Those seniors are outside hitter Gabby Damroze, outside hitter Alaina Melgar, opposite hitter Madison Clevenger, defensive specialist Makayla Kim, defensive specialist Isabella Mashour, outside hitter Kristina Torosyan, setter Arpi Hakoop and libero Madison Gomez.
“Alaina, Makayla and Madison are the motors of the team,” Tyler said of the trio. “They get going and our ceiling goes up.”
But it’s not only the seniors that have to produce according to Tyler.
“We’ll have to have our younger players step up, trust the process, and play for each other,” he pointed out.
The battle for the league crown is something Tyler thinks is within reach, but the team will have to play well and under control if this goal is realized.
“I’m expecting the league to be tougher with our new schedule of playing teams three times,” he said. “That puts the second half of the season into a new challenge that we’re ready to face.”
So far, Tyler is pleased with what he’s witnessed on the offensive side of the ledger.
“We’re moving the ball well and picking up steam offensively,” he noted. “It will take time to understand.”
Trying to prevent the other team from scoring could also be a strong point for the Bulldogs.
“We made a lot of progress defensively, but we’re still looking to fine tune our strategies,” Tyler said.
The other members of the team include junior setter Alyssa Ponsones, junior outside hitter Jazmine Cobb, junior defensive specialist Jolene Ngo, junior middle blocker Quinn Cramer, sophomore middle blocker Tara Rauenswinder and sophomore middle blocker Astoria Torres.