By Rick Assad
It was extremely loud and it was pretty much jammed-packed with excited fans on both sides of the gymnasium when the Burbank High girls’ volleyball team hosted rival Burroughs on Tuesday night.
In slightly more than an hour, much of the yelling subsided on the Bulldogs’ side as the Indians took matters in their own hands and eventually pulled out a three-set sweep of pesky Burbank, winning 25-15, 25-17, 25-17 in a Pacific League match.
It seemed no one could handle senior outside hitter Lydia Grote, who finished with a match-high 20 kills, and her dominance began in the first game.
“What we try to focus on, especially in matches like these, is that we just focus on our side of the court and our bench and our cheers and we focus on what we can do before the game,” said Grote, who will be attending the University of California at Berkeley, where she will play on the women’s volleyball team. “We can’t focus on what other people are doing. What the outside factors are. We have to focus on our benefits and what we do best.”
Grote scored two of the first three points for the Indians, who moved ahead 3-0. When Grote picked up four kills, Burroughs (10-4 and 7-0 in league) forged a 6-2 edge. Grote’s winner made it 8-2 and forced the Bulldogs (8-10 and 4-3 in league) to ask for time out.
Is this the best Grote’s played this season? “I’d say it’s up there,” she noted. “I’d say Arcadia and this game were my best, but as a team, the last two games have been crucial for us.”
Grote’s spike made it 9-3 and another kill by Grote handed the Indians a 10-4 advantage.
Burroughs senior middle blocker Camila Sanchez-Tellez’s kill pushed the lead to 11-6.
Grote’s tapper made it 16-8 and junior middle blocker Emily Caneday’s push saw the Indians lead 20-10.
Is this the best Burroughs team Grote’s played on?
“I have to say every team that I’ve played on has their benefits,” she said, “but I’d say this is the strongest team I’ve played on at Burroughs. We’re just very adjustable. Whoever is on the court, maintain a high level of play.”
Junior outside hitter Catie Virtue’s spike made it 23-12, but consecutive aces from Burbank senior setter Ashley Eskander trimmed the lead to 24-15. Eskander’s errant serve gave Burroughs the initial set.
“We just try and slow the game down as much as we can,” Eskander said of playing against Burroughs. “Take every point, point-by-point and go from there. We try to not get too far in our heads. Obviously it’s hard, but we just try our best. We try to remain calm.”
Early in the second game, Burbank jumped ahead 3-1 on a kill from senior outside hitter Katie Treadway, who had four kills and nine digs.
Grote’s laser evened it at 3-3 and the lead ballooned to 6-4 on another kill from Grote. Sophomore setter Meagan Lynch’s winner gave the Indians an 8-6 cushion.
Burbank then rallied and seized a 12-11 advantage on a service winner from Eskander.
“We can always work on our defense,” said Eskander, who had 15 assists, eight digs, six kills and six aces of what the team needs to do better. “Definitely more consistent on serving, but I think our offense needs to step it up a bit. Just play hard.”
When Burroughs senior defensive specialist Natalie Hooper added an ace, the Indians bolted ahead 14-12.
It became 15-13 on Grote’s kill and senior setter Milana Abrahamian’s service ace made it 18-13 as the Bulldogs requested time.
A kill from senior opposite hitter Joelle Burras saw the Indians dash ahead 21-16 and a spike from Grote was the set winner.
The Indians took control of the third set 5-2 on an ace from junior defensive specialist Reese Coblentz.
An ace from Burbank senior setter Kassandra Gonzalez trimmed the lead to 8-6.
When Eskander added her potent, super-quick push, the Bulldogs bulled ahead 9-8.
“This year, there’s an emphasis to treat every game the same. Maybe they were a little amped up because it’s a crosstown game,” Burbank coach Karl Rojo said about the longtime rival. “We try to treat it like a regular match.”
Rojo spoke about some of the problems. “The unforced errors definitely did not help out at all,” he said. “It killed our momentum when we had good momentum. Like serving into the net when we get a good kill. That should not be happening with our team. The unforced errors like the communication errors when the ball drops in between players. That should not be happening.”
A block from Sanchez-Tellez gave the Indians an 11-9 lead and Grote’s kill made it 14-11.
Back-to-back aces from Eskander evened the set at 14-14, but Grote’s kill made it 18-14 and another winner from Grote pushed the lead to 21-15.
Virtue’s kill made it 23-17, Virtue’s tapper saw the Indians inch ahead 24-17 and a block from Sanchez-Tellez sealed the set and match.
Senior defensive specialist/libero Morgan Bolger added nine digs with an ace, junior opposite hitter Tamryn Betts tossed in three kills, junior middle blocker Bianca Hudson had two blocks and one kill and junior sophomore libero/defensive specialist Makalya Kim contributed two digs for the Bulldogs.
Burbank will conclude its regular-season schedule with a visit to Burroughs on October 17.