It isn’t often that a team that finished fourth in its league, goes and long road trip against a league champion in the first round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs and comes home a winner.
But the Murrieta Valley Nighthawks girls’ volleyball team can put that on their impressive resume as they swept host Burroughs 25-18, 25-13, 25-23 Thursday in a Division 2 contest.
“We don’t play teams like this very often,” Burroughs coach Edwin Real said. “Our team is good, we just had some issues with ball control today. We had a hard time hitting the ball in the right place.”
After a solid performance in the Division 3 playoffs a year ago, the Indians got moved up.
“You get rewarded if you play well and play good teams. We haven’t gotten past the quarterfinals and they keep pushing us higher,” Real said.
Murrieta Valley (24-8) finished fourth in the Southwestern League and performed even well in tournaments by beating the likes of Santa Margarita, the second-best team in the Trinity League.
“Our league is extremely difficult like loaded. Every game in our league is a battle against girls that are going to some of the top (colleges) in the nation,” Murrieta Valley coach Ann Romero-Parks said. “We do our best to manage intense situations because we are in them all the time.”
Burroughs senior and UC Berkeley commit Lydia Grote, who finished with a team-high 16 kills, said she knew the match would be tough.
“We have a lot of respect for their team and their league. We definitely talked about it. They come from a different league,” Grote said. “Our league is not as tough as most leagues. We needed to expect more of a first-place team than a fourth-place team.”
Burroughs (18-6) never really threatened Murrieta Valley after the two teams were tied at 6 in the first game.
Things didn’t get any easier in the second game, as the Indians fell behind early and were only able to get as close as 5-4.
Burroughs finally got a lead in the third game, it’s first since very early in the first game. The Indians were able to break a tie at 9 by taking advantage of a Nighthawk error.
The Indians went up 20-16 on a kill by Catie Virtue. She finished with eight kills.
But Murrieta Valley got four kills down the stretch from Rachael Yelenich and rallied to help secure the sweep.
“We’re all really passionate about moving forward. I think in that third game it became real that this could be it,” Grote said. “So I think we pulled together as a team and made an overall statement of we need to start playing now.”