LA HABRA — When Burbank High went on the road for the second round of the 2011 CIF Southern Section Division II-A girls' volleyball playoffs and were swept by Whittier Christian, it was the first time the school had advanced that far in 37 years.
Two years later, the Bulldogs, whose roster had experienced a complete turnover since their last visit, were back for another second-round contest Thursday. It was a feat now accomplished for the second time in the last 39 years, and, for the second time in the last three years, the place and opposition would be the same.
Burbank, which played at home in the first round, had to go on the road and face defending II-A champion Whittier Christian at the Leon Davis Event Center in an attempt to further this season's postseason run. It turned out once again to be too difficult a task, as the Bulldogs started slow and never caught up with the Heralds, who won, 23-11, 25-19, 25-23.
"I think we played really strong at the end of the game," Bulldog senior Samantha Morales said after her final match as a Bulldog. "We could have come out stronger at the beginning, but I'm really proud of how far our team got."
Throughout the match, Burbank (16-7) struggled to put away points against a disciplined and energetic Herald team defense led by Delaney Harris' 11 digs. Bulldogs' Denise Daniel and Ashlyn Edwards shared team honors with four kills apiece. Middle Allison Tiegs, usually the catalyst for the Burbank attack, was held in check, finishing with three kills, although she remained a force at the net with six blocks.
"I think [the Heralds] were really disciplined and they were where they needed to be," Burbank Coach Sarah Brown said. "Balls that maybe we were used to getting kills on and things like that they were digging and getting it back. It's hard to win long rallies. It's hard when a team is consistent like that."
The Bulldogs also played without two starters in the loss to Whittier Christian (29-6), which is now riding a seven-game playoff winning streak. Bulldog senior Hayley Bradford went down with an injury yesterday and Lucia Edwards was not available due to a family function.
Whittier Christian setter Jennifer Washle (31 assists) spread the wealth, keeping the Burbank defense, led by Lily Winn's 14 digs, guessing throughout. The Heralds were led in kills by Kylee Wolfe, Deanna Blaine and Kylie Cooke, who had nine, eight and seven, respectively.
The Heralds overwhelmed Burbank in game one on the way to the 14-point final margin. Game two saw the visiting Bulldogs stay closer, but they still were unable to challenge the defending division champs, losing 25-19.
"We had a slow start on Tuesday [in the first round] in a couple games and I really think we focused on that in practice and picking it up," Whittier Christian Coach Shawn Hunter said.
Game three was the most competitive of the match. After trailing by three early, Burbank took the lead on an ace by Nicole Mailhot that climbed over the tape and dropped for an 11-10 edge. The Heralds went up again before the Bulldogs came back and built their largest advantage of the final game when Tiegs, in her center position, two-hand-stuffed a floating Herald pass down for the kill and a 15-13 lead.
However, the cushion was short-lived, and following Tiegs' final block of the evening delaying the inevitable, Cooke finished the Bulldogs off with a kill from the outside to win game three 25-23 and end the match.
"I like that we didn't give up. I like that we played all the way until the end," Brown said. "I kind of wish we'd started how we ended and see what happened."
Despite Thursday's defeat, the Bulldogs roster this season was laden with juniors, meaning there will be a lot of experience returning next year.
"We already have our team chemistry," said Ross Cowart, one of 11 juniors who will be on the varsity this year. "We're all going to come back hard. We're all playing club together, so we're just going to come back even stronger."