BURBANK — It was uncharacteristic of the Burroughs girls’ volleyball team to miss serves and returns in the first set of a Pacific League match against Crescenta Valley at home on Tuesday.
On the other end, the kind of play that gave the Falcons the win in the opening set was very characteristic of the visitor’s strengths on the court over the course of the season.
However, Burroughs got into its groove early in the second game and carried the momentum the rest of the way to defeat Crescenta Valley, 20-25, 25-20, 25-8, 25-10, and take a giant step in defending its league title.
“We always just play a little tense early on and it shows with us hitting balls out and keeping balls out of the court,” Burroughs coach Edwin Real said. “We’re very inconsistent. It’s frustrating.”
With the win, Burroughs (14-4, 11-0 in league) can claim at least a share of the Pacific League title in a home match against Muir on Thursday. The Mustangs (0-10) have not won a league match this season.
Crescenta Valley (9-2 in league), which also lost in four sets in its first meeting against Burroughs on Sept. 12, is in second place with Arcadia.
Burroughs senior Lydia Grote, the University of California-bound outside hitter who tallied just two kills late in the first set, finished with 14 kills and two blocks. Indians seniors Camila Sanchez-Tellez and Catie Virtue each added 11 kills. The Indians also had five aces each from junior Lily Rogers and sophomore Charlotte Hobson.
The Falcons were led by senior outside hitter Lizzy Kerman with 12 kills, seven digs and two aces and junior Jamie Santos added seven kills.
Backed by Kerman’s four kills, the Falcons scored five straight points to take an 8-3 lead in the first game.
Though the Indians’ serving helped them to tie it at 10 on the back of a short 5-0 run, the Falcons took advantage of the host’s disorganized play to take a 21-14 lead with a 7-0 scoring spurt.
A pair of kills from Grote pulled the Indians within 24-20, but setter Isabella Doom’s block sealed the first set win for the Falcons.
“The way we were playing in the first set is how we’ve been playing all year,” Crescenta Valley coach Matt Simons said. “As simple as it sounds, we were playing volleyball the way we’ve been practicing it.
“We know Burroughs is a really good team, and they weren’t really passing as well in the first set, but once they started passing well and they were able to run their offense, they were able to play they wanted to play, and hats off to them.”
The opening set saw plenty of miscues from Real’s go-to hitters Grote and Virtue, who he pulled aside after the first-game loss to discuss their play.
“They’re our two main hitters and it’s their job to be leaders and keep balls in play, not hit balls out — just hold the group together,” Real said. “They know that. It was just a quick reminder.”
That discussion helped the Indians jump out to a 6-1 lead in the second set, with a pair of kills and a block from Grote.
“We really had to think where we are in our season,” Grote said. “We haven’t lost a game yet in league. We were just thinking about how we got here, and all the things we had to do and all the hard work we had to put to get here. We tried to channel that into our play.”
Burroughs led by eight before Crescenta Valley cut it to 19-17 late in the game. The teams then went toe-to-toe before the Indians pulled away with a service ace from Virtue and a block and the set-winning kill from Sanchez-Tellez.
With the third game tied at 5, Grote knocked down three kills in a row to build a three-point lead before the Indians outscored the Falcons, 10-0, to take a 22-7 advantage.
The Falcons offense misfired four times in that span.
“Our energy and our mindset weren’t in a positive and productive place,” Simons said. “Near the end, I took a few of our girls out hoping they would calm down, take a deep breath and relax.
“They care so much and they were so amped up. Sometimes when you have that energy and you’re not playing well, it’s such a huge let-down, so I was trying to get that momentum back. We just never did.”
Falcons middle Ellie Song (five kills) helped cut the visitor’s deficit to 11-9 in the fourth set, but the Indians outscored Crescenta Valley, 13-1, to win the match.