By Rick Assad
A mere eleven points separated Burroughs High and visiting Mission Viejo across three sets in a CIF Southern Section Division III opening-round girls’ volleyball playoff match on Thursday night.
The first two games were decided by two points, while in the third set it was seven, and with any luck or run stoppage, the end result could have been different.
The scores went into the record book 25-23, 25-23, 25-18, and the match was tight from the opening serve.
“It was a game of runs against us. We struggled to score points,” Burroughs coach Edwin Real said. “We played well and they went on runs. We didn’t give up a point or two. We gave up bunches at a time.”
Losing the first set was a dagger for the Bears, who could have taken the game and put the Diablos on their heels.
“We gave them the first game. We were up by a lot. We just made too many errors. You make errors, you’re going to lose,” Real said.
The first game was deadlocked seven times, but it was the Bears (17-5 and 13-0 for first place in the Pacific League), who delivered the first punch.
A kill from senior outside hitter Heidi Collins gave Burroughs an 8-6 advantage.
A push from junior outside hitter Janessa Wareebor extended the lead to 10-8.
The lead would be 12-8 on a kill from Wareebor that prompted the Diablos (14-10 and 5-4 for third place in the Sea View League) to ask for time.
Burroughs then went on a 5-2 run and dashed ahead 17-10 on a service winner from sophomore outside hitter Tawnie Ohrt. Once again, Mission Viejo requested a stoppage in time.
The Diablos inched back into the set and cut the lead to 20-15 on an ace from Kaylie Stewart. This time, the Bears asked for the game to be halted.
Mission Viejo then drew to within 21-19 on a spike from Danica Wulf and evened it at 22-22 on a service ace from Sam Lister that saw the Bears ask for yet another time out.
A kill from Ohrt leveled it at 23-23 , but a spike from Chloe Karn pushed the visitors in front 24-23 and Stewart’s bullet gave the set to the Diablos.
“We started off strong with quick, consistent play in the first set, but they are a good team and they were able to adjust and find our weak spots,” Burroughs senior libero Charlotte Hobson said.
Hobson added: “They were taking some good swings and it would have been easy to fold over and let them win without a fight, but I’m proud of how we played as a team and the battle we put up,” she said. “I know I left everything out on the court.”
The middle set was knotted four times, but each and every point proved vital.
Mission Viejo seized control 4-1 on an ace from Sage McCorgary and the Diablos would scoot ahead 7-5 on a kill from Stewart.
The Bears then caught the Diablos at 8-8 on a kill from senior setter Meghan Lynch.
“I think my team played well. We all worked hard. We just came out short in the end,” said Lynch, who will be playing volleyball for Fresno State.
Prior to the third set, Lynch gathered the team and spoke to the other members.
“Before the third set, “I told them to dig deep and to play hard,” she said. “No matter the outcome of the game, I’m super proud of my team this season. I’m so lucky I was a part of such an amazing program. All of my teammates are such good athletes, but even better people.”
Lynch also tipped her hat to the Diablos.
“Mission Viejo’s outside hitters were just unstoppable,” she said. “I give them a lot of credit.”
A push from Karn evened it at 10-10, but Mission Viejo then built a 12-10 lead on a kill from Karn as the hosts needed a time out.
The Diablos took control 15-13 on Karn’s blast, then bulled ahead 19-15 on Wulf’s winner.
Burroughs wasn’t about to give up as it rallied to get within 20-18 on a block from junior opposite hitter Kara Aldana-Pere.
Karn’s kill made it 21-18 and Wulf’s rocket increased the Mission Viejo lead to 22-18 as the Bears needed a stoppage in time.
Burroughs wasn’t done as it was able to slice Mission Viejo’s advantage to 23-21 on a tapper from Wareebor.
The lead was trimmed to 23-22 on an ace from Collins, but a smash by Karn made it 24-22 and the second set was sealed on Stewart’s kill.
“That wasn’t the outcome any of us wanted nor expected, but I really believe we did some great things today,” Collins said. “One of the goals coach Real wanted us to focus on was having quick starts and to switch up our spots on offense. I think we executed those goals pretty well.”
Like Lynch, Collins also said that the Diablos are a fine team and worthy of praise.
“Mission Viejo is a really good team and we fought hard against them,” she noted. “I am beyond proud of what my team and I have accomplished this season, as we are undefeated league champions. I’m very grateful for them and coach Real.”
The third game was tied five times including 1-1 on a kill from Ohrt, 2-2 on a winner from Karn and 4-4 on another spike from Karn.
Burroughs scored the next three points as senior middle blocker Bella Lomet delivered a kill for a 5-4 lead, Ohrt delivered an ace to make it 6-4 and Lomet’s block made it 7-4.
The Diablos ran off three straight points including Lister’s stuff that made it 7-7.
A 6-1 spurt by Mission Viejo followed as the visitors dashed ahead 13-8 on an ace from Stewart.
Burroughs wasn’t done as it closed within 15-10 on a winner from Collins, but the Diablos took control 17-14 on Wulf’s kill.
McCorgary’s service winner made it 20-15 as the Bears wanted a stoppage in time.
Stewart collected three straight kills to make it 23-16 and the set and match was captured on a kill from Wulf.