By Austin Green
Just a few short weeks after they learned a season was even possible, the John Burroughs High School girls’ volleyball team finished with a perfect 5-0 record, punctuating their short, unconventional 2021 season with a three-set sweep over archrival Burbank High School by scores of 25-11, 25-14 and 25-16.
Catie Virtue, one of Burroughs’ seniors, led the way with several key kills, including late in the third set after Burbank made a strong attempt to avoid getting swept. Fellow senior Maddie Manahan helped keep Burbank off balance with a strong service game. The two combined for the last three Burroughs points to bookend an afternoon that started with a makeshift “senior night” ceremony, masked and distanced, with parents participating on the other side of the fence around Memorial Field where the match took place outdoors. Burroughs head coach Edwin Real led the celebration.
“[The seniors] didn’t get a full season, it’s unfortunate, but they deserve something,” Real said.
Burbank finished the year with a 2-1 record. Head coach Patrick Tyler believed his team could have done better at serving and receiving, but ultimately tipped his cap to Burroughs — and the rivalry, finally renewed after such a long hiatus.
“Burbank vs. Burroughs is always going to be something,” Tyler said. “Nobody wants to lose.”
That was evident in the energy both teams brought throughout the match. It helped Burroughs get off to a strong start thanks to some solid defense, rolling to a set one win. The Indians stayed strong in the second set, jumping out to a 12-4 lead and never looking back.
Burroughs setter Meghan Lynch did her job well, both in assisting her teammates on the “football field” and keeping them engaged throughout the set, drawing praise from both coaches.
“She’s very competitive,” Real said.
But the Bulldogs did not roll over easily in the third set, keeping their energy up and cleaning up mistakes that had hurt them in the first two periods. A key adjustment from Tyler was to put one of his premier hitters on the outside to help jump-start Burbank’s offense while Quinn Cramer and Bianca Hudson blocked much more effectively to stifle Burroughs’ net play.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead before the Indians rallied with five straight points of their own. The two then exchanged leads for the next 10 points, with neither side able to gain much of an advantage until Burroughs got two crucial kills from Heidi Collins and a service ace from Kylie Colton. Up 17-14, Real called timeout and turned to his senior, Virtue.
“We told her she needs to be aggressive; that’s her game,” Real said. “So when she got back to swinging away, [she did] a lot better job.”
Virtue had three kills among Burroughs’ final eight points, including the clincher. With her final kill, a direct shot into the back corner of Burbank’s side of the court, Virtue ended both teams’ seasons — there are no playoffs for “Season One” CIF sports this year due to the COVID-abbreviated year — and brought closure to a successful attempt by both teams to get a season in before their seniors graduated.
“We’ve been trying since beginning of the year to figure out something,” Tyler said. “We just want to make sure we did it right by our girls.”
His boss, Burbank co-athletic director Patrick McMenamin, agrees. McMenamin already has the coming weeks — when many other sports are set to resume under Season Two of CIF scheduling rules — on his mind.
“I think it was vindicating for these players to at least have some sense of season and it was great to see them out there today,” McMenamin said. “A lot of people have put in a lot of hard work to get sports back… it’s going to take some more organization and coordination with so many sports taking place at the same time, but these are good problems to have.”