By Jim Riggio
Special to MyBurbank
Losing three all-league league players in a sport where just six are on the court at one time might devastate some programs.
But that does not appear to be the case for the Burroughs High girls’ volleyball team.
Last season the Indians went 18-10 overall, 11-3 in Pacific League play.
Lost to graduation are first-team all-league players Dani Gonzalez and Caitlin Cottrell as well as second-team all-league pick Katie Rutecki.
Coach Edwin Real, who is entering his 11th year as the head coach after being a longtime assistant under legendary Buroughs coach Linda Murphy, has reason to be optimistic with five returning varsity players.
However, it could be a newcomer that becomes the player Real builds his program around for the next four years.
Burroughs has been bolstered by 6-foot-3 freshman middle blocker Marin Grote, who was recently named Most Valuable Player of the Foothill Invitational.
“Our team is improving every time we get together,” Real said. “We had a slow summer, but everybody does because kids are with their club team or doing something else.”
Real got an idea of what his team could be like during the Foothill Invitational.
“We got everyone here about three weeks ago and we did well in that tournament,” he said. “We played a scrimmage (Wednesday). Now we’re kind of up and down a little bit. We know what we have to come back and work on. We don’t need to work on skill. We have to work on our hustle and work ethic.”
Junior middle blocker Danielle Ryan (6-0) is a returning honorable mention all-league selection.
Senior setter Lizzy Gunn (5-6) is another key returner. Senior outside hitter Kelsey Strong (5-8) is a third year varsity player. Senior opposite hitter Jaclyn Offerman (5-7) and junior defensive specialist Sammie Sullivan (5-6) also return.
The Indians have a strong core of young players as seven of the 13 varsity players are either freshmen or sophomores.
Freshman opposite hitter Jules Cottrell (5-8) and freshman setter Payton Jenson (5-5) are two who figure to be stars before they graduate.
Sophomore middle blocker Caleigh Paster (5-10) moves up from the junior varsity. Sophomore Abby Bolde (5-7) will offer help as a setter. Sophomore Cecera Suarez (5-7) is a versatile player and sophomore Sophia Rizzotti (5-9) will help as an opposite hitter.
Real said he likes the feeling of being an underdog in the Pacific League and knows Arcadia is the heavy favorite to repeat as the league champion behind star Lexi Resch, who is regarded as one of the best players in league history.
“Arcadia is pretty good. They should be strong. I think Burbank has everybody back so they will be strong,” said Real. “I think we’ll be competitive and we’ll challenge (for the league title). I don’t think people will think we’ll challenge because of the people who graduated, but now we have others. You can’t just give up.”
Burroughs hosts Hoover to begin Pacific League play on September 18 and travels to Arcadia on October 2. Battles against rival Burbank will be on Oct. 9 and November 4.