CYPRESS — The Burroughs High boys’ volleyball team was definitely the newcomer in its CIF Southern Section Division III championship match Saturday.
The Indians’ program has only been in existence for five years, and the team had never gotten past the second round of the playoffs before this season, let alone compete for a CIF title.
In contrast, opponent Cerritos Valley Christian is a veteran of deep postseason runs, having captured a championship in 2007. The Crusaders have also captured the Olympic League championship seven straight years.
No. 1-seeded Burroughs battled in the first two games of the title contest, as the teams matched one another point for point, with neither being able to forge a substantial advantage.
However, the Indians were unable to neutralize No. 2 Valley Christian’s firepower in the final two games, and as a result, fell in four games in the match at Cypress College, 27-25, 25-27, 25-18, 25-16.
The Indians (33-3) — the Pacific League champions — were attempting to become the first team in the 63-year history of Burroughs to capture a championship. They were, however, only the fifth squad to advance to a CIF title contest.
The Indians played well in the first two games, earning a 1-1 split. But the Indians weren’t able to keep up the same high level of play over the course of the final two games, and the Crusaders took advantage.
Burroughs Coach Joel Brinton said although he gives Valley Christian (29-4) a lot of credit for its tough play and its ability to persevere and win the title, he believes his squad did not play at its best in Games 3 and 4.
“I honestly don’t know what happened to us [in the final two games],” said Brinton, who has guided the program since its inception in 2007. “This is the first time in 37 matches that we’ve had this year that I’ve seen that team play like that in those two games.
“A lot of the credit goes to Valley Christian. I think that our guys started to get a little frustrated because there were used to getting some easy points that they didn’t get today.”
The loss marks the end of the high school careers of senior brothers Tyler and Lucas Yanez. The two have thrived under Brinton’s tutelage for four years, breaking numerous school records and putting Burroughs boys’ volleyball on the map.
“It goes without saying that without those two guys we don’t get to the position that we did, and our program doesn’t continue to rise like it did,” Brinton said. “I’ve very, very proud of what they have been able to accomplish.”
Tyler, a setter, finished the match with 34 assists and seven digs and Lucas, an outside hitter, had eight kills and 11 digs. Teammate Daniel Jacobs, a sophomore opposite, had nine kills and Robert Rutecki, a junior middle blocker, added eight kills.
Tyler said that the Indians’ team should be proud if what it was able to accomplish this season.
“It’s a bummer that we lost, and of course it’s going to hurt,” he said. “But we played hard and we didn’t give up. We have played really [well] all year and we came so far. We just didn’t have it this game.”
Burroughs had problems containing Valley Christian senior outside hitter Kyle Pollema. Pollema continually battered the Indians’ defense, ending up with a match-high 22 kills. Teammate Chris Albers, a senior outside hitter, contributed 13 kills.
The opening game was a close battle the entire way. There were six lead changes and 14 ties during the game, as neither school could generate any breathing room. The biggest lead of the stanza was just three points.
After enjoying a lead early in Game 1, the Crusaders came back to take the advantage, only to have Burroughs snatch back the lead at 19-18. Valley Christian stayed close, however, but was never able to surge in front, as the Indians looked to close out the game leading, 24-23. But a kill by Pollema knotted the score at 24.
The Indians had another game-point opportunity at 25-24, but it was senior outside hitter Tyler Boar who kept the Crusaders alive with a kill. A Burroughs net violation allowed Village Christian to capture the lead, and a block from Albers closed out the game.
“We had it. We were there and we had our opportunities,” Brinton said about the first game. “But we didn’t seize the moment. But their hitters stepped up there in the clutch when they needed the kills.”
It was another tight battle in the second game. Burroughs was able to lead almost the entire game, but couldn’t extend its advantage to more than four points. Valley Christian did whittle down the lead to 23-22, only to have the Indians come swarming back to go up, 24-23. But as in Game 1, the Indians couldn’t close it out right away.
As a result, the Crusaders powered back to take control, 25-24. After a Valley Christian hitting error, the Indians again had game-point, 26-25, after another hitting error.
It was at that point that it looked as if the Indians had caught a break. Pollema fell to the floor clutching his left ankle, obviously in pain. The senior had to be helped off the court and the Crusaders went on as Pollema’s injured ankle was being attended to.
Burroughs won the second game on a block from Rutecki on an attempt by Albers to even the match.
Pollema wasn’t out for long, however, and he returned strong in the third game.
“It definitely gave them a boost when he was able to come back,” Brinton said of Pollema.
The Crusaders led wire to wire in the third game. Burroughs could only cut the lead to three, 18-15, the entire stanza.
Burroughs began the fourth game with a 4-1 lead after two kills and a block from Lucas Yanez. But Valley Christian took the momentum back at 6-5 and maintained a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
“We were one of only 10 teams in the Southern Section to still be playing [Saturday],” Brinton said. “This team has a lot to be proud of.”