When Burris takes the court tonight for its Class 2A regional volleyball match at No. 6 Madison-Grant, the 22-time state champions will technically be underdogs.
“From our standpoint, we don’t look at them as an underdog,” Madison-Grant coach Bob Holloway said. “To say they’re an underdog is definitely an overstatement.”
Holloway considers the teams evenly matched. He noted his Argylls caught a significant break in that the match is in their gym. The 22 state championship and four mythical national title banners hanging from the Ball Gym rafters sometimes psyche opponents out.
“It would probably take the first set to settle in because you’re reading all of the banners,” said Holloway, whose team owns a 25-8 record. “We’d probably leave 15 minutes earlier on the bus because they’d be reading all of the banners.”
Virtually all of those 22 state champion Burris teams entered the state tournament as the favorite. The spotlight shone bright on the Owls throughout their 34 seasons with Steve Shondell as coach.
The spotlight burned out last season after a second consecutive sectional loss to Wapahani, though, and is yet to completely turn back on. That is somewhat surprising considering the Owls (19-16) upset 3A No. 8 Central two weeks ago and take the court tonight as winners in 11 of their past 14 matches.
“We’re incognito,” first-year coach John Rodriguez said. “That’s how we like it.”
The path to a potential 23rd state title cleared significantly for Burris when two-time Class 2A state champion Wapahani moved up to 3A this season in accordance with the newly implementing IHSAA success factor rule.
Wapahani swept Burris in their regular-season match, but with the Raiders now in 3A and out of their way, the Owls breezed through their two sectional matches. Burris swept Shenandoah and host Winchester to advance to the regional round and played impressively in the process.
Rodriguez said his team started jelling toward the end of the regular season. Outside hitter Taylor Kring returned to ripping balls after dealing with a shoulder injury earlier in the season to complement Alyssa Peters as a reliable 1-2 hitting tandem for setter Emily Brinkman.
“We’ve been growing as obviously a lot of people have been able to see throughout the past few years,” Brinkman said, “and, I think, finally we’re getting to the point where things are working for us.”