While it is a rivalry in theory and geography, the matchup on the boys’ volleyball court between Burroughs and Burbank has been distinctly the domain of the Bears over the past decade.
In the second meeting of the schools this season, Burroughs was in need of a win after an uncharacteristically slow start in Pacific League play. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were looking for a breakthrough in the series.
The Bears may still be in the process of finding themselves, but Burroughs did enough to sweep visiting Burbank 25-20, 26-24, 25-18 on Wednesday evening.
“It was nice to get the win [but] we still have a lot to work on,” Burroughs coach Joel Brinton said. “That’s about all I got.”
With Wednesday’s victory, Burroughs is now undefeated against Burbank for more than 10 years. Over the past decade the Bears are 19-0 against their rivals, which included a win in the league opener on March 14.
If Burbank was to have won a single game during Wednesday’s match, it would have likely been the second game, which saw the Bears fight off four game points and eventually complete a comeback. The Bulldogs controlled the second game throughout, leading by as many as five before a Bears set sailed over the net and was cleaned up by Burbank’s Sam Jurman for a kill to make the score 24-20, setting up game point.
Burroughs’ Benji Ly then prolonged the game with a kill from the outside off the block. Game point No. 2 was fended off by a kill from Henry Carlin. Game points three and four were squandered by a two-touch violation and then a bad set by the Bulldogs to tie the contest.
Burbank then relinquished the lead with a hitting error before Burroughs’ Owen Dixon secured the win with an ace that landed deep on the Burbank side of the court.
“I saw that my team needs to work on their emotions,” Burbank coach James Cowart III said. “We could have had them in the second set, but we got a little excited and [then] started deflating. Ultimately, that bled into the third set.”
The Bulldogs’ offense went dormant in the third game as Burroughs put together the finishing touches. The final margin of seven was the largest of the final game. The match came to conclusion on a Ly kill, set up by an errant Bulldog pass that sailed over the net.
“I saw the overpass and I just went for it,” Ly said.
It was a much-needed Pacific League win for the perennial champion Bears (3-2 in league), who had lost their last two league contests and are currently in third place in the standings. For context, Burroughs had suffered just two league losses in total since the 2013 season.
“It has been many years, so we’re trying to figure out what it is like to be in this position,” Brinton said. “The goal every year, whether we are winning league or not, is always the same, which is to find the best version of ourselves. A lot of years it’s worked out with league titles, and this year it is not [looking that way], but we’re still going to find the best version of ourselves.”
Burroughs never trailed in the opening game, although Burbank stayed within striking distance throughout. The Bears’ advantage peaked at 16-9 following a kill by Ly. A kill from the outside off the block by Burroughs’ Mark Hopkins set up game point before a Bulldog hitting error ended Game 1.
The Bears were led in the kill department by Ly and Hopkins, each of whom recorded nine. Andy Zeytounian had five, while Gavin Arnold and Carlin each collected four, and Carlos Tupua-Stiefel had three.
“We’re definitely not going to be complacent,” Ly said. “We’ll just keep working from here. It feels good to get the [win], but we’ve got to keep on working.”
The Bulldogs, who often had trouble putting the ball away, got two kills apiece from Akash Kodavati, Austin Kim, Ryan Viyar, Jurman and Noah Lintag, all of whom shared team-high honors. Taiyo Nakao and Hayden Cribbs each had one kill.
First published in the April 8 print issue of the Burbank Leader.