The Burbank and Glendale boys’ volleyball programs are both looking to further establish themselves in the competitive hierarchy of the Pacific League. As the Bulldogs and the Nitros faced off, each had a chance to make a statement.
In a tightly contested affair throughout, host Burbank dropped the opening game but rallied for a 21-25, 25-23, 25-20, 27-29, 15-13 victory in a match that went the distance in Pacific League play Monday afternoon.
“I’m very big on teaching in my program that if you dig yourself into a hole, you have to learn how to dig yourself out,” Burbank coach James Cowart III said.
It was a breakthrough league win for Burbank.
“We started off our league with our three toughest opponents, so we started off 0-3 and now we are actually able to get our way back into the groove of things,” Cowart said.
The cumulative score narrowly favored the Bulldogs, 113-110, and was indicative of the tight match that saw the score tied 26 separate times through the five games. Neither squad ever led by a double-digit margin.
“Our team has won three five-set matches. This is the first one we have lost and up to the very end we thought we could win this one too,” Glendale coach Marji Keyfauver said.
Glendale opened an early five-point advantage in the final game, but the Bulldogs caught up and tied the score at 10 apiece following a kill by Akash Kodavati. Glendale surged ahead with consecutive kills by Benjamin Salmeron and Ergueen Herrera.
Burbank’s Ryan Viyar got one point back on a kill from the outside hitting position before Salmeron got a kill that saw the ball barely land inbounds in the deep corner of the court.
Austin Kim answered with a kill from the outside down the line. The next point went to the hosts on a hitting error by Glendale to tie the score at 13-13. Noah Lintag then served an ace that rocketed off a Nitro in the backline. The match came to an end on the next point as a Nitro kill attempt sailed long, bringing the contest to a close.
The Nitros had barely reached a fifth game after fighting off four match points for Burbank to steal the win. Overall, game 4 saw 13 ties, including at every number between 20 and 27, with the maximum deficit for either squad being three.
The first match point followed an emphatic kill by Kim off a Nitro block to make it 24-23, only to see a net violation on the next point by the Bulldogs tie the contest.
Another kill from the outside by Kim brought up the second match point, but a block by Glendale’s Vraj Bhagat tied the score again. Viyar got a kill from the outside for a 26-25 lead, but an errant Bulldog pass on the next point tied the game again.
Lintag then recorded a kill from the outside for match point No. 4, only to see Glendale’s Quan Tran knot the score again with a kill. Glendale then forced a decisive game 5 when the Bulldogs hit short and then made a bad pass to cede the game to the guests.
“It’s a game of momentum. In the fourth set, we didn’t have that momentum that we had in the fifth,” Lintag said.
Glendale had won game 1 after overcoming an early eight-point advantage by Burbank. After that, game 2 found the Nitros up by nine at one point, only to see the hosts overcome the deficit late. Game 3 stayed within five points throughout before Burbank won, 25-20, on an ace.
“Energy,” Cowart said of what changed after the opening game. “My boys had admitted that they had come into it very lazy and didn’t have their full effort into it. Going into that second set they made the adjustment and actually started playing at the level that I know they can play at and they know they can play at.”
Kim recorded a match-high 19 kills for Burbank. Viyar had 14 kills and Noah Lintag had 13. Taiyo Nakao had seven, Kodavati five and Sam Jurman three.
First published in the April 1 print issue of the Burbank Leader.