BURBANK — The Burbank High girls' volleyball team has dealt with a frustrating habit this season of playing well in the first game against an opponent only to fold in the latter games and suffer a loss.
That is just what happened to the Bulldogs last month against co-defending Pacific League champion Arcadia, when they played well in the opener only to lose to the Apaches in three.
It occurred again Thursday, when Burbank captured the first game against rival Burroughs only to go down to defeat in four.
In the rematch with Arcadia on Tuesday, again the Bulldogs played solid volleyball out of the gate, notching a win in the first game.
But on this day, Burbank did not wilt. Instead, the Bulldogs almost came back from a huge deficit to take the second game and used that momentum to notch wins in the third and fourth stanzas, eventually walking away with a 25-20, 23-25, 25-15, 25-13 victory at home.
It was the first league loss for the Apaches (11-5, 7-1 in league), who entered the match in sole possession of first place in league. Arcadia is ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Division II-A poll, while the Bulldogs (9-6, 5-3) are unranked.
The win is also beneficial for Burroughs, which entered the contest one match behind Arcadia. With a four-game victory Tuesday against Glendale, Burroughs (10-5, 7-1) is tied for the league lead with the Apaches.
Although her team suffered a 26-24, 25-19, 25-20 loss to Arcadia on Sept. 19, Burbank Coach Sarah Brown knew her team could be competitive with the Apaches.
"Finally, you could see what this team is really capable of," said Brown, whose squad shared the league title with the Apaches last season. "You saw how good we can play in that first game against Burroughs. We knew the potential was there, we just needed to put it together and play like that for an entire match."
As has been the trend, Burbank played well in the early going. However, as much as the Bulldogs were clicking in the first game, they couldn't take more than a three-point lead. Midway through the game, Burbank errors allowed Arcadia to surge out in front, 16-15. But the Bulldogs snatched the lead back at 17-16 and built a four-point cushion at 21-17. The Apaches did get to within one of the lead, 21-20, before Burbank stepped up and won the next four points to close out the game.
"Our coach always reminds us to stay focused and to keep our energy up and we were trying to do that today," said Burbank's Rose Cowart, who had nine kills and 15 digs. "She tells us to make a difference on the floor. We were just all pulling for one another today."
The Bulldogs spread things around nicely on offense, getting 15 kills from Denise Daniel, 12 from Allison Tiegs and 10 from Ashlyn Edwards. They also received 49 assists from Sara Treadway and 22 digs from Lily Winn.
Following the first game, the Bulldogs fell into their regular pattern in the second. Taking full advantage, Arcadia jumped out to an 18-8 lead. That prompted Brown to call a timeout and have a heart-to-heart with her team.
"In the middle of that second game, I just said to them 'You have to decide right now if you want to continue playing the way that we've been playing or do you want to make a change?'" Brown said. "I told them if we keep on playing the way we're playing we know what's going to happen; we might as well not even play the rest of the match. We already know what the outcome is going to be.
"I feel like we got some momentum going late in that second game and that helped us the rest of the way."
The Bulldogs didn't win the second, but pushed the score to 24-23 before the Apaches were able to close it out.
Burbank led the entire way in the third game, starting off on a strong 8-0 showing on the serving of Hayley Bradford.
The fourth game was a study in determination and execution for the Bulldogs, who committed just three unforced errors in the stanza. After holding a 9-5 lead, the Bulldogs went on a 7-2 run and never looked back, outplaying Arcadia at the net and on the back line.
"We didn't want to let up in that fourth game," Brown said. "So it was up to me to keep after them and not let that happen. I think it's rare that a coach can help their team on the court because you're not playing in the game. But I feel you can make a difference with them mentally.
"You just can't let up when you play a team like Arcadia and they didn't let up. I'm really proud of the way we played today."