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Boys' Volleyball Preview: Burroughs looks to continue league dominance

Boys' Volleyball Preview: Burroughs looks to continue league dominance
Sam Tipton is a key returner this season for the Burroughs High boys' volleyball team. (Tim Berger \ Staff Photographer)

It is something acknowledged but not talked about much among Burroughs High boys’ volleyball players and coaches.

It is almost a decade-long dominance by the Indians in the Pacific League, which includes a lengthy win streak.

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But instead of focusing just on maintaining its league success, the Indians also look to perform well in the playoffs.

With Burbank, it looks to keep moving in the right direction and the Bulldogs want to stay competitive in the Pacific League and again qualify for the playoffs.

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Providence moves to a new league and has a new coach. The Pioneers are coming off a 2018 campaign in which it won the Liberty League title and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV quaterfinals.

Here is a closer look at the teams.

BURROUGHS

The Indians (19-9, 12-0 in league) stormed to their ninth straight Pacific League championship, dropping just two sets in 12 league contests. The Indians increased their league winning streak to 65 matches, a string that dates back to 2013.

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Burroughs saw a group of key players from that squad graduate. That included league and All-Area Player of the Year Cole Kaitz, who finished with 234 kills (3.9 kills per set) to go along with 31 blocks and 12 digs. He also had 27 kills in a league match against Arcadia, which was third all-time for kills in a match for a Burroughs player.

“What is kind of unique for us this season that we have our share of inexperience and that poses a big challenge for us,” Brinton said. “We did move some of the younger guys up last season to kind of get their feet wet.

“But like always we are putting people in spots to see what works best for us.”

Returning to help bolster the Indians is senor libero Sam Tipton. In 2018, Tipton was an all-league selection after leading the team in digs with 275 (third most in a season) to go along with 15 aces.

“It’s great to have a player like Sam back. I kind of call him our defensive coordinator,” Brinton said. “I tell him, ‘Sam, it’s your job to make everyone as smart as you on defense. Go do that.’”

Two other all-league returners are junior outside hitter Connor Burroughs (93 kills and 16 blocks) and sophomore opposite Kade McGovern (40 kills and 31 aces).

Other key returning player is senior middle Jagger Green.

“I think it’s a good thing that all the history with us in league and what we’ve done the years before, it just never comes up with us,” Brinton said. “We just don’t talk about it. We just talk about getting better every day.

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“It’s nice that they understand that if they follow the process and listen to their coaches all that stuff will hopefully take care of itself.”

Brinton said he expects Crescenta Valley and Arcadia to be competitive in league.

BURBANK

The Bulldogs (19-10, 9-3) are coming off a season in which they placed second in the Pacific League. In the Division II playoffs, Burbank fell in the first round to Warren.

Burbank graduated all-league first-team pick Jonathan Ragheb, who finished with 162 kills, 79 digs, eight blocks and seven aces.

“We lost a fair amount of key players since graduation,” Burbank coach Karl Rojo said. “We lost some of our top hitters along with our libero and a setter, and all of those guys were all-league last year.

“But we do have some returners this year along with a lot of add-ons. We have a lot of seniors this year. I think we have a total of 12 senors this year. But we have a lot of players who know how to play volleyball.”

Returning for the Bulldogs is senior setter Bradon Villaflor, senior outside hitter Ryan Rickey, senior middle Luca Bily, senior opposite Dylan Viyar, senior outside hitter Chase Marcy and senior middle Dawson Koerper.

“We just want progression from them day by day,” Rojo said. “We just need to work on the little things. So far the pieces have been coming together nicely. It’s just a matter of their commitment.”

“In league, you never know what’s going to happen in the Pacific League. But it’s going to be the usual good teams in league. But we are definitely going to look to compete with Burroughs and the other top teams in the league.”

PROVIDENCE

The Pioneers went 14-3 (7-1 in league) in 2018 and captured the Liberty League championship for the first time since 2014. In the playoffs, Providence fell in the quarterfinals to No. 2 La Salle.

Providence did lose its share of impact players to graduation, namely Zack Pikhart, who was named the Liberty League Player of the Year after leading the team in kills with 284 to go along with 93 digs, 28 blocks and 16 aces.

First-year coach Nigel Dookhoo said since taking over the program the Pioneers players have responded to him well and he’s been impressed with the group.

“For me, if the kids are receptive everything goes well, and the kids have been great,” Dookhoo. “They have been pretty open to everything that we’ve talked about. It really started in the fall and the kids were really proactive when they touched base with me.

“It helps that I know a lot of the kids in that I have taught some of them and I’ve seen some of them on campus. That helps some in breaking the ice because we knew who each other was.”

One of the team’s key returners is junior setter Gerald Martin, who earned all-league first-team honors a year ago after finishing with 225 assists, 73 digs, 43 kills, 17 aces and 12 blocks.

Unfortunately for the Pioneers, another all-league selection, Nick Tidik, transferred to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

Other key returning players include senior outside Conrad David, senior middle Michael Zwart, senior middle Carl Menke and junior defensive specialist Enrico Arambulo. Also returning is senior utility Joshua Bamba, who didn’t play last season.

“This is a very hard-working working group and to call them anything else would be a disservice to them,” Dookhoo said. “Those are the kids who are here from last year ad we have definitely put their stamp on this team. Those are the guys who are contributing for the most part.”

This season, the Pioneers will jump from the Liberty League to the Prep League.

“In boys’ volleyball in league you never know what you’re getting,” Dookhoo. “A team could have been strong last year but they lost some key players and they will be down.

“So we’re definitely playing it by ear. Historically, the Prep League has been a tougher league, so we are definitely not taking any team for granted. We want to be realistic, but we can’t see what we’re up against until we actually go up against them.”

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