BURROUGHS HIGH — The Burbank High girls' volleyball team struggled in its opening game against Burroughs on Thursday.
The Bulldogs didn't look particularly sharp and the Indians were able to dig almost everything Burbank's big hitters sent their way, taking the first frame in workmanlike fashion.
But the Bulldogs proved why they are the first-place team in the Pacific League, and why they are determined to win their first league championship in 37 years.
Paced by senior Stephanie Eskander, Burbank roared back to win the next three games and finished the evening with a 16-25, 25-14, 25-23, 25-17 victory at Burroughs.
The Indians are the defending Pacific League champions.
It was the first win for Burbank (9-0, 7-0 in league) against its rival since Nov. 6, 2008. More importantly, the Bulldogs remain in first place in league with seven matches remaining. The Bulldogs lead second-place Arcadia (6-1 in league) by one match.
"This win really means that we made a statement in league tonight," said Eskander, who contributed 12 kills and five blocks. "We are really ready to win the league title and that is something that all of us are working really hard for."
Early in Thursday's match, it looked at if Burroughs (5-4, 5-2) was poised to knock the Bulldogs off their league-leading perch. The Indians received four kills each in the opening game from senior Laura Howard and junior Caitlin Cottrell to take control of the contest.
Realizing her team might have been caught up in the hoopla surrounding the cross-town rivalry, Burbank Coach Sarah Brown did her best to have her players put the first game behind them.
"They know it takes three games to win, so I tell them all the time that when a game is over it's over," Brown said. "Whether we win or lose, we have to put that game behind us and it's time to start over. I told them they need to take a deep breath, relax and settle down.
"After that first game I thought we played a lot better and we started playing like the team that we are."
Burbank also received eight kills and three blocks from senior Sharon Youn, 16 digs each from senior Katie Hooper and senior Stephanie Lin and 15 assists from senior Tyler Brooks.
After putting the first game behind them, Burbank came out in the second game and played better. The Bulldogs were also able to take advantage of 13 Burroughs unforced errors in the frame.
"We came out and played like we wanted to play in that first game," Burroughs Coach Edwin Real said. "But slowly, but surely we started making mistakes in the other games. We just had too many unforced errors and they started digging us after that first game."
Cottrell ended up with 13 kills and Howard added 11.
In the third game, the Indians led late, 23-20, following a Burbank hitting error. However, a pair of kills from Eskander and a Burroughs lift allowed the Bulldogs to tie the score at 23. A Burroughs hitting error and a combo block by Eskander and Denise Daniel closed out the game.
In the fourth game, the Indians went in front, 10-9, before Burbank seized the momentum and never trailed thereafter.