By Rick Assad
A season for the ages by the Burroughs High boys’ volleyball team continued in high style after sweeping visiting Crescenta Valley in a Pacific League match on Wednesday evening.
The Bears, who are ranked No. 12 in the nation according to USA Today Volleyball Coaches Association, pushed aside the Falcons 25-18, 25-23, 25-12 and have now won a school record 25 consecutive matches.
This triumph comes less than a week after Burroughs captured the prestigious Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions where it knocked off San Marcos [Santa Barbara], Corona del Mar [Newport Beach] and Mira Costa [Manhattan Beach], all powerhouses.
The critical set was the second as it easily could have gone either way and was tied six times.
Down the stretch and late in this middle game, the Bears (28-3 and 10-0 in league) were steady and resilient as they took the final two points.
A kill from senior outside hitter Chris Johnson, who collected a match-best 13 kills, made it 24-23. The set was clinched on a spike by senior outside hitter Justin Burras, who had six kills.
“I liked that our offense involved the middles so much more than the first time we played them,” Burroughs coach Joel Brinton said. “I also liked that we got challenged in that second game and we had to pull ourselves together and figure out how to battle back and win that set.”
Burroughs led 2-0 in the second set on a push from senior setter Christian Solano (24 assists and eight digs) and it became 7-5 on a winner from Burras.
The Falcons (25-9 and 7-2 in league) proved a worthy opponent as they forged ahead 9-7 when a shot from senior outside hitter/opposite hitter Vinny Harris (nine digs and two aces) hit the net.
A push from senior middle hitter Noah Kim made it 15-13 in favor of Crescenta Valley, but the Bears came within 17-15 on a kill from senior middle blocker Khalib (Pucky) Lawrence.
An ace from Burras leveled it at 17-17 and when it became 19-17 on a kill from Lawrence, the Falcons asked for a stoppage in time.
Crescenta Valley was extremely stubborn after tying the score at 23-23 on a kill from Kim as the Bears asked for a stoppage in the action.
“Crescenta Valley did play better. Their defense was great throughout the match and made us have to find a way to terminate,” Brinton said.
Longtime Crescenta Valley coach John Nelson saw many plusses despite the setback.
“I thought we played pretty good in the first two sets. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite pull out the win in the second set,” he said. “I think winning that set would have changed everything. The third set we made a few mistakes early and lost all the momentum.”
The match-clincher was tight early as it was deadlocked at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 and 4-4 but the Bears eventually raced out to a 7-4 lead on a kill from Johnson.
An ace from Harris extended the cushion 12-5 as the Falcons requested time out.
Johnson’s kill made it 14-6 and an ace from junior libero/outside hitter Carlos Tupua-Stiefel secured a 16-7 advantage.
The Bears moved in front 20-11 on Johnson’s push and 21-11 on Johnson’s lightning bolt.
A service winner from Burras gave the Bears a 24-11 lead and when Crescenta Valley senior libero Evan Boyle hit the ball out of bounds, the match was in the bag.
After it was even at 1-1 in the initial game on a Burras push, the Bears took command 8-4 on a service winner from Tupua-Stiefel.
Johnson’s tapper made it 10-4 as the Falcons requested time to huddle up. A Burras kill made it 13-6 and a co-block from Harris and Lawrence made it 16-9.
Burroughs took the next two points for an 18-9 lead as Johnson had a push that made it 17-9 and Solano added an ace for an 18-9 lead.
A tapper from Harris extended the margin to 21-14 and Johnson’s blast made it 22-15.
Junior middle blocker/opposite hitter Mark Hopkins tossed in a kill to make it 23-17 and Johnson’s kill made it 24-17.
The first set was earned when junior setter Drew Puttler’s serve was off the mark.