By Rick Assad
In the athletic arena, nothing is ever given, but rather it’s earned, and for the third consecutive season, the Burroughs High girls’ volleyball team claimed the Pacific League championship.
The scores were 25-15, 25-20, 25-22 over visiting Arcadia on Tuesday afternoon, and now the Indians will prepare for a second and final meeting when hosting Burbank on Thursday night at 6 p.m.
This weekend, the CIF Southern Section will announce its pairings and seedings for the following week’s playoff matches and Burroughs should receive a first-round home match.
What it boiled down for Burroughs these three years of league dominance is talent, hard work in practice and being able to mesh together as a team during the games.
“Our players, from beginning to the end on the bench, we have good players. We can inter-change them and move them around and it’s very helpful,” Burroughs coach Edwin Real said of his squad. “It really helps out in practice. In practice we can push each other and reach a higher level and then when it comes to game time, we can mix kids and it makes it real easy.”
Real, in his 16th season at the Indians leader, added: “Passing was better,” he pointed out. “Even at times when we struggled, we still kept composed. We just trust each other that we’re going to get the job done.”
The Apaches (20-11 and 10-3 in league) can finish tied for second place with a victory at home against Crescenta Valley on Thursday.
Burroughs’ top offensive stars were on the money as they combined for 34 kills.
Senior outside hitter Lydia Grote and junior outside hitter Catie Virtue each tallied 12 kills, while senior middle blocker Camila Sanchez-Tellez added 10.
The early portion of the initial set was extremely close and it included being deadlocked at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 5-5 and 6-6 before the Indians surged in front 7-6 on a hitting error by the Apaches, who brought up two players from the junior varsity.
Burroughs (16-5 and 13-0 in league) then pulled in front 10-8 on Grote’s kill and led 12-8 on sophomore middle blocker Bella Lomet’s spike as Arcadia asked for time.
The Indians’ advantage became 14-10 on Grote’s winner and 16-10 on a laser from senior opposite hitter Joelle Burras.
Back-to-back service aces from Burroughs senior setter Milana Abrahamian made it 18-10 as the Apaches requested a break in the action.
“Serving tough is definitely something that a team needs and I feel like when you get a big lead, it’s good for the whole team and keeps the energy alive,” she said.
Abrahamian spoke about the upcoming postseason and hopefully advancing to the title match.
“It’s definitely a goal we have this season,” she said. “We’re trying to get past quarterfinals and we want to make it to the top. Our whole team wants that. If we’re all on our game, we can make it all the way. If we just play our game, we’re unstoppable.”
Virtue’s kill made it 20-11 and Sanchez-Tellez’s winner saw the Indians sprint ahead 22-13.
“I really think our wins are a team effort,” Virtue said. “So whatever I can contribute, I’m happy to contribute. Lydia can come in with all these numbers and it’s all great. I can come in with all these numbers and it’s all great, but either way we all support each other as a team.”
Virtue’s two consecutive kills made it 24-14 and when Arcadia junior Angela Zhou’s attempt hit the net, the Indians won the opening frame.
The second stanza began with the Apaches taking a 4-1 lead on a tapper from junior Alexandra Bierotte.
Arcadia’s advantage swelled to 9-5 on a kill senior Shayli Johnson. Burroughs chopped the advantage to 12-10 on Grote’s winner and evened it at 13-13 on an ace from junior defensive specialist Lily Rogers.
When Virtue added a kill, the Indians darted ahead 15-13 as the Apaches needed time to gather their thoughts.
Virtue said she has high hopes for the playoffs.
“I really think what’s different about this year is we don’t really rely on just one player,” she said. “We spread out whoever is bringing in a lot of points. Our defense is very consistent on top of really very skilled hitters. The fact that we’re really well-rounded makes us probably one of the best teams in the program.”
Virtue went on: “No matter what happens we’re going out swinging. We’re going to fight to the end and I really think we can get a ring,” she said.
Consecutive aces by Rogers made it 17-13 and a push from Virtue shoved the Indians ahead 20-16.
A co-stuff by Virtue and junior outside hitter Mariah Bowman made it 21-17. A kill from junior middle blocker Emily Caneday saw the Apaches seek a time out as the lead ballooned to 23-19.
Virtue’s kill made it 24-19 and Virtue’s service ace had the Indians knocking on the door at 24-20. Grote’s kill was the set-clincher.
In the third and final set, Arcadia dominated the early action as the Apaches led 5-1 on a block from senior Monet Latunde and were ahead 9-4 on an ace from senior Cate Ruiz.
“I think the losses were really good for us just because we’re a young team. So a lot of the kids are going to come back next year,” Arcadia first-year coach Stephen Bernabe said. “So this is more about growth in the bigger picture. For a team like Burroughs, with a lot of seniors who can put the ball down, it’s good for me to see our youth be able to pass the ball back up, rally, and even though we lost in three, our scores kept on getting better, so I know that the kids are reading better.”
Burroughs came within 14-11 on a blast from Grote as Arcadia asked for another stoppage in time. The Indians outscored the Apaches 7-4 and evened it at 18-18 on Virtue’s kill.
It was knotted at 19-19 on Virtue’s spike, but Arcadia then surged ahead 20-19 on Johnson’s rocket.
Arcadia sophomore Ashley Marrone played well. “Last year we lost all of our seniors who were really tall, so we kind of turned out to be a little shorter,” she said. “Some things I like about this team are we strive to be better, we have high energy, we keep each other up and we have great sportsmanship.”
Marrone added: “Today I felt we did really great, but there were some things we could have fixed like our passing,” she noted. “We were kind of lazy about that. For future teams I do think we’re going to be improved.”
Sophomore setter Meghan Lynch tossed in a push for the Indians that tied it at 20-20 and Virtue’s kill evened it at 21-21.
When Johnson’s swing hit the net, Burroughs led 22-21 as Arcadia requested a time out.
Virtue’s mishit leveled it at 22-22, but Grote scored the next three points with a kill, a block and a kill for the set and match.