By Rick Assad
You could say the relatively easy match for the Burroughs High boys’ volleyball team came when it hammered visiting Santa Monica 25-18, 29-27, 25-12 in a CIF Southern Section Division I opening-round clash on Tuesday.
Now the hard part comes when the Indians, who have captured the Pacific League title nine straight seasons and were the regional state champions in 2016, have to face Loyola in the second round on Thursday.
“It was huge. We didn’t play our best,” Burroughs coach Joel Brinton said of the middle set. “The season now boils down to winning three sets.”
The second game could have swung either way after being knotted 15 times including 23-23 on a kill from sophomore middle blocker Connor Burroughs.
At this point, each team had difficulty getting its serve over the net as it became 25-25 when Santa Monica’s Ryan Logan’s serve found the net and 27-27 on Burroughs senior outside hitter Diego Rosal’s service miscue.
“We were fortunate tonight. We’re going to have to play our best match,” Brinton said of this encounter which will likely be much easier than facing the Cubs.
In the end, the Indians took command on a tapper from senior opposite hitter Cole Kaitz that made it 28-27.
When Kaitz (match-best 18 kills) delivered a spike, Burroughs (19-8 and 12-0 in league) led two games to none.
The Indians evened the second game at 3-3 on a bullet from junior outside hitter Michael Rumfola and 8-8 on Burroughs’ blast.
Santa Monica’s Ryan Rooke leveled it 14-14 with a kill and it was deadlocked at 18-18 on Kaitz’s winner.
Though the match-clinching set was tight in the early stages after being tied 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, and 6-6, a winner from Rosal (nine kills) made it 7-6.
Junior libero Sam Tipton, who contributed 10 digs, then served three straight aces to make it 10-6.
What followed was a 5-3 mini-blitz that pushed the advantage to 15-9 and included a tapper from Kaitz.
When Kaitz served an ace, the Indians’ lead swelled to 19-11 which prompted the Vikings (15-10-2) to call for time.
The Indians went on another patented run, this time 6-1 that included Kaitz’s dagger for a 20-12 edge and a block from Burroughs that made it 22-12. The next three points came on Viking hitting errors.
Brinton said that the expectations are high, but that’s a good thing. “Now it’s on them to continue that,” he said of the current squad. “I hope these guys like being the hunted during league. The pressure’s on them [Loyola]. Let’s see if they [Burroughs] can do it.”
The initial game saw the Vikings jump off to a 4-2 lead when George Felstiner tossed in a kill, but the Indians tied it at 6-6 on an ace from freshman outside hitter Kade McGovern.
Felstiner’s dagger evened it at 11-11 and 12-12, only to see the Indians pull ahead 18-16 on Kaitz’s bomb.
When Kaitz added a kill the Indians trotted ahead 21-16 and then led 23-18 on Rosal’s winner and 24-18 on another rocket from Rosal.
Senior outside hitter/opposite hitter Azael Estrada’s winner gave the Indians the set.
For good measure, senior setter Jose Solano added a match-best 28 assists for the Indians.