LA CRESCENTA — It was only fitting the Pacific League girls' volleyball match between Crescenta Valley High and Burroughs was decided on an ace. Ironically, the team that was most formidable in its serving didn't wind up with the decider.
After being peppered by 20 Falcons aces, the Indians had the most memorable one from Darby Adams — her fourth of the match — which ended the contest in Burroughs' favor on Crescenta Valley's home court Tuesday, 25-21, 23-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-13.
"It's an amazing feeling just getting an ace, let alone match point, it was incredible," Adams said. "It definitely was a great feeling, it was giving it right back."
While a tough loss for the Falcons, who are now 2-2, 1-1 in league, Crescenta Valley Coach Jen Ku Lee was happy with how his group took a perennial league power to five games.
"I can't complain because my team played well and we were short-handed," said Lee, whose team played without Emmie Walker and Micaela Guarino, as both are battling knee injuries. Walker is day to day, but Guarino is out indefinitely. "We played well, we came with a passion to win and we were this close."
Two points is exactly how close CV was, as a four-point spurt late in game five gave them a 13-10 lead. All those points came off serves from Emily Bristow (two aces), as Burroughs had trouble receiving serves from a number of Falcons, including Rosa Kwak (nine aces), Jane Moon (four aces), Cami Wong (two aces) and Nannette Grigorian (two aces, seven kills).
Burroughs Coach Edwin Real called a timeout with his squad two points away from defeat.
"We've always talked about winning the championship and I told them if we lose this match, the championship is out the window," said Real, whose Indians are constantly a top-two to three team in the Pacific and most recently won league titles in 2011 and 2007. "I told them, 'We either play to win this match or we just play for second or third.'"
Katie Rutecki (six kills, three aces) helped rally Burroughs with two kills that sandwiched a kill from Caitlin Cottrell (17 kills, three ace) to tie the game at 13 and prompt a CV timeout. While the Falcons had battled back in earlier games, they had no answer as another Rutecki kill and Adams ace ended the contest.
"It was a really intense game, we've been training really hard so it was hard to see it go to five games," Adam said, "but we pulled it out."
It was almost miraculous CV was able to send the match to a fourth game, let alone a fifth. It appeared Burroughs was on its way to a three-game sweep as it held a 19-11 advantage in game two after winning the first game, 25-21, on an 11-4 run.
Lee called a timeout and Crescenta Valley quickly responded with Kwak fueling a 10-0 run, with half of those points coming on her aces.
A service error finally broke the Falcons and Kwak's serve and both teams played to a tie at 23. An Indians service error gave CV game-point and Wong secured the victory with another ace — Crescenta Valley's seventh of the game.
"We came back with our serves, serving consistently is what let us back into it," Kwak said. "Serving was the main thing."
Kwak, the team's libero, credited the Falcons' serving proficiency to their constant drilling in practice, as did Lee.
"We practice that every single day, we run this drill, seven in a row, 10 in a row," Lee said. "We don't stop until everybody on the team gets seven in a row and 10 in a row. Sometimes it takes like an hour to accomplish that goal and sometimes it takes 10 minutes. Fortunately, it's coming to life again and it's working. I'm happy with my team."
With 10 ties and seven lead changes, the third game was the most intense. Burroughs finally broke the deadlock with a 4-0 run that gave it a 20-16 lead. This time, the Indians didn't let the Falcons back in it and took the swing game, 25-18, with four of their final five points coming on CV errors, including the clincher on a service error.
"I just know we have to come out and play well to beat everybody in the league," Real said. "Over the last five or six years we've been up there one, two or three so I know people are circling Burroughs on the calendar. We have to come out and not let our guard down."
In game four, a 6-0 Crescenta Valley run sparked by four Burroughs errors and two Kwak aces gave the Falcons a quick 8-2 lead. The Indians, who also received 12 kills from Danielle Ryan, couldn't cut much into the lead until they pulled within two late, 20-18, on an Alexis Hamilton kill and Elizabeth Gunn ace.
Both teams traded errors and Burroughs added a service error that gave CV a 22-19 lead and put the ball back in Kwak's hands. She responded with another ace that prompted an Indians timeout, but kills from Cassidy Iannello (nine kills) and Grigorian set the match to a fifth game.
"In the future, if I were to say what we could improve on as a team, I would say we had so many highs and lows in the game, so that's something we can work on," said Kwak, whose team also received 11 kills and three blocks from Sabrina Shahbandeh. "Other than that, our season looks great."