By Rick Assad
Like a finely tuned championship sprinter, once they’re on the track and focused, there’s no stopping them.
In a different sport in which a team is involved, the analogy still applies because it seems once the Burroughs High boys’ volleyball team takes the court and ready to go, it’s usually curtains for the opponent, and it was for visiting Burbank.
On Friday night, it took 63 minutes and three sets in order for the Bears to seize a 25-14, 25-12, 25-21 Pacific League triumph.
“I was trying to get better and work on some things that we know we need to get better at,” said Joel Brinton, who is in his 15th season as the Burroughs coach of the quick march.
The final game was close in part because Brinton opted to remove his starters and give some playing time to his bench and a chance to shine in this longtime rivalry.
“I like that that group continued to work on the same things that the other group was working on,” he said. “Lots of guys got a chance to contribute and do the things we work on in practice.”
Looking at the start of the season until now, the Bulldogs (2-9 and 2-5 in league) are slowly improving and actually played extremely well in the early portion of the three sets.
After Burbank sprinted to a 4-2 lead in the opening frame on an ace from sophomore setter Ryan Viyar and then taking a 6-3 lead on a kill from junior Alex Gevdzhyan, the Bears (24-3 and 7-0 in league), who have won 20 straight matches and are zeroing in on the record, which is 22 set in 2015, tied it at 7-7 on a winner from senior outside hitter Chris Johnson, who finished with a match-high 13 kills.
Johnson’s spike made it 11-7 and when senior outside hitter Justin Burras (seven kills) tacked on a winner, Burroughs’ lead became 13-10.
Senior middle blocker Khalib (Pucky) Lawrence added back-to-back spikes that made it 15-11 and 16-11.
A service winner from Burras extended the advantage to 18-12 and it became 21-13 on Johnson’s blast as the Bulldogs asked for a stoppage in time.
Junior middle blocker/opposite hitter Mark Hopkins then tossed in a spike to make it 22-14 and a block that made it 23-14.
When senior outside hitter/opposite hitter Vinny Harris added a kill, the lead swelled to 24-14 which saw Burbak request a time out. A winner from Hopkins sealed the first game.
Like the previous set, the Bulldogs pulled ahead 2-1 when Johnson’s ball hit the net and it was deadlocked 3-3 when Johnson’s serve drilled the twine.
In time, the Bears would race to an 8-5 advantage on a kill from Lawrence and 11-6 on a tip from Johnson, who had three kills over this stretch.
Burroughs would continue the pressure as it led 13-7 on a rocket from Johnson and Johnson’s push would make the cushion 14-8.
Johnson’s service ace extended the lead to 15-8 as Burbank asked for a time out.
When Harris added a tapper, it became 16-8 and a kill from Harris made it 20-9.
Burbank came within 20-11 on a service winner from middle blocker Akash Kodavati, but the Bears pushed ahead 22-12 on Johnson’s spike.
A kill from Burras saw the Bears get to within a point at 24-12 of the second set and then iced it when Johnson added a kill.
The final game of the match began with the Bulldogs taking a 5-3 lead on an ace from Viyar. It was knotted at 9-9 on a dagger from Burroughs’ senior opposite hitter/outside hitter Kyle Truett (five kills).
Burbank exhibited spirit and lurched ahead 12-10 on junior outside hitter Noah Lintag’s service ace.
A kill from sophomore opposite hitter Henry Carlin saw the Bears pull within 12-11, and an ace from junior libero Carlos Tupua-Stiefel evened it at 13-13.
A kill from freshman outside hitter/opposite hitter Benji Ly handed the Bears a 17-15 lead and a winner from Truett made it 18-16 in favor of the Burroughs.
It was tied at 20-20 when Burroughs junior setter Christian Lim’s serve touched the net, but down the stretch the Bears outscored the Bulldogs 5-1 that included Ly’s match-clinching kill.
Burroughs senior setter Christian Solano was the player getting the ball to the hitters and had 24 assists.