The Burroughs High girls' volleyball team made a surprising postseason showing by advancing to the CIF Southern Section Division II-A quarterfinals.
For Bellarmine-Jefferson, it made a predictable trek to the quarterfinals in Division IV-A, as the Guards advanced to the round of eight for the fifth straight season.
The teams also had something else in common when the All-CIF awards were released Monday. Both squads had first-team honorees, as Indians junior middle blocker Caitlin Cottrell made the Division II-A squad and Guards senior outside hitter Taryn Nelson garnered a place in Division IV-A.
Nelson was a driving force for a Bell-Jeff (17-10-1) team that captured its seventh consecutive Santa Cruz League championship and ran its league unbeaten streak to 52.
With injuries and other distractions plaguing Bell-Jeff throughout the season, Nelson proved to be the one constant. From one of its setters not being able to compete in Tuesday league games because of softball commitments, to losing starting outside hitter Mariah Bankhead during the regular season to an injury to seeing starting middle Briana Hilo sidelined with an injury in the playoffs, the Guards had to battle through their share of problems.
“Taryn was even injured herself and missed the first two games with a hurt ankle,” Bell-Jeff Coach Miguel Segura said. “With all that happened to us it was a real test for any captain this season, but Taryn came through and handled it.
“She was looking to get the ball on every set. And a lot of the times we gave her the ball. She was always willing to step up and take the swing when we needed it.”
As the team’s go-to offensive threat, it wasn’t uncommon for Nelson to be double-teamed, as opponents tried to stop her.
But Nelson proved she was a difficult player to naturalize. Behind a powerful outside shot and a potent serve, Nelson was named the Santa Cruz League Player of the Year. In addition to tallying 315 kills, she also had 89 aces and 282 digs.
Despite finishing third in the Pacific League, Burroughs (19-16) was able to step it up in the postseason and advance to the Division II-A quarterfinals.
Much of that success in the playoffs was due to fine play from Cottrell.
“She really improved from last year to his year and she’s worked hard to have that improvement,” Burroughs Coach Edwin Real said. “When the team does well the individual recognitions come through. It’s nice to see her be able to win this award.
“I don’t know if she knew it, but she was our go-to person when she was in the front row. We really rode her coattails in round one and round two of the playoffs. The others came through as well, but Caitlin had two very good matches in the playoffs. Even against a good team like Oxnard she was blocking the heck out of their best hitter.”
In the second-round match against Oxnard, Cottrell had 14 kills and five blocks.
Cottrell, an All-Pacific League first-team selection, averaged 12 kills and 1.2 aces a match.