By Austin Green
It took a makeshift court on a football field and a rain delay scare before the game started, but it was worth it in the end for the John Burroughs High School girls’ volleyball team. Burroughs swept Glendale High School on Thursday in what marked the first official high school sporting event Burroughs hosted on its campus since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic almost exactly one year ago.
Though Burroughs (3-0 record) took all three sets convincingly, both schools thought the biggest victory was simply the ability to still compete, even in such abnormal conditions.
“It’s very relieving,” said Glendale libero Kelli Bayona, whose team is 0-2. “I just really enjoy the game and the chance to play volleyball again.”
Like all CIF high school volleyball contests during the pandemic, the game was held outdoors with coaches and players masked at all times. Spectators were barred from entering Memorial Field, where the match was played near the north end zone while the Indians football team practiced on the south half of the field, a compromise worked out by Burroughs Assistant Principal Steve Hubbell. A handful of family members watched and cheered from the other side of the outer fence.
“Just goes to show that our sport, volleyball, can play at any court at any time that we need,” said Glendale head coach Janssen Elento.
Burroughs head coach Edwin Real called it a step in the right direction.
“Thank goodness our district is allowing this right now, at least something,” Real said. “We’re just appreciative of the opportunity.”
Burroughs took full advantage of that opportunity, rarely trailing throughout the match and reaching double-digit leads in each of the three sets. The home team jumped out to a 15-8 lead thanks to some aggressive net play from the outside hitter Heidi Collins and middle blocker Bella Lomet, then closed on a 10-3 run to take set one.
Real’s squad wavered late in the second set, though, as Bayona’s vocal leadership and tough defense helped spark a Nitros’ comeback that brought the score within four points.
“I just really knew that the game wasn’t over yet and that’s what kept me determined,” Bayona said afterward.
With the score at 21-17, Burroughs recaptured the momentum with a hard-fought rally that culminated in a kill from Lomet. From there, the hosts won three of the next four points to clinch the second set.
Set three did not contain as much drama. A nice kill from outside hitter Janessa Wareebor sparked a 12-0 Burroughs run that turned a 5-4 deficit into a 16-5 lead, and the home team never looked back from there, winning 25-10.
“We said [between the second and third set] that we can’t let teams hang around,” Real said.
Elento wants his squad to work on its passing after the loss, but he had more important things on his mind, too.
“Considering that we’re still living in a pandemic world right now… just trust the system and keep up the good work for everybody,” he said.