LA CRESCENTA — Conflicting school colors blended into a unified shade of pink for Tuesday afternoon’s Pacific League girls’ volleyball game between Burbank High and host Crescenta Valley. The Bulldogs and the Falcons both donned pink jerseys for the annual “Dig Pink” event, through which both teams raised money to find a cure for breast cancer.
But while the two squads came together for the cause, Tuesday’s game was very much about gaining separation for the Bulldogs, who widened their lead over the Falcons for third place in league with a 21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-17 win.
“It was a huge win for us, it takes a little pressure off us for the rest of the season,” said Bulldogs Coach Sarah Brown, whose squad improved to 8-4 and 7-3 in league, while the Falcons dropped to 6-6 and 5-5. “It’s nice to be alone in third place. It’s nice to get the win and just be solid in our spot.”
Both teams raised money for the Side-Out Foundation’s effort to battle breast cancer through per-dig pledges and flat donations, as well as a gift raffle held during the match.
“This has been going on for a long time now and it’s a great event,” Falcons Coach Jen Ku Lee said. “It’s a good distraction away from volleyball. [It puts] less pressure on the game.”
The Falcons did come out loose and relaxed, controlling the first game and leading by as many as seven points three times, including, 20-13. But, in a bit of foreshadowing, Burbank began to turn the tide even as it lost the first game, battling back to within two before the Falcons set up game-point on a Noel Wong kill.
Wong got an ace to give Crescenta Valley a boost and a 4-1 lead early in the second game, but Burbank then went on a 7-1 run and later enjoyed a 7-2 run, capped by one of Reilly Brennan’s six blocks, to take an 18-13 lead. Crescenta Valley’s Kira Guarino, who finished with a 17 kills, notched a kill for a sideout, followed by one of Payton Wheeler’s three aces to bring the Falcons back within three, but Burbank sped to the finish behind two aces from Stefanie Lin and two kills by Stephanie Eskander.
“I just told our girls to control our side of the court and not to worry so much about what they were doing,” Brown said. “Just keep the ball in play and do our job and see what happens.”
With the third game deadlocked at 15, Burbank made another late move, this time powered by Julia Slater’s five-point service run, including two aces. Even as the Bulldogs held game-point, the Falcons crept back to within three on a Nannette Grigorian ace, but Heather Son ended it on the very next point with a kill.
Slater went on another extended service run early in the fourth game, giving Burbank a 10-4 cushion that would grow larger behind two more kills from Eskander, who put Burbank up, 19-8, for its biggest lead of the match. Eskander finished with 11 kills, which tied for a team-high with Jamie Gonzalez.
“Give credit to Burbank, they saw what we were doing, they were picking it up,” said Lee, who got 35 assists from Wheeler and 12 digs from Lily Kaufman. “It’s very difficult to come back after two, three, four, five, six points [lost in row]. Mentally, it’s just straining for them.”