By Jeremy Balan
Burton High School’s girls volleyball team got its first Academic Athletic Association playoff berth in 2010, but the Pumas have the hitters to be more than just a playoff team this season.
They could be a contender.
When the Pumas had an opportunity to hit against non-league opponent Leadership on Monday, they were more than effective, and ran away with a 25-3, 25-12, 25-7 victory over the visiting Griffins.
Burton senior outside hitter Vagitau Vae had a match-high nine kills — more than the entire Leadership team — and fellow senior Doreen Veniale added six kills in the win. Both are returning All-AAA selections from last season.
“They can bring it, and they’re the best middle and outside I have,” said Burton coach Brian Jackson. “They’re outstanding players and great leaders.”
The Burton kill totals were down, however, because of the strength of its serving game and several instances of miscommunication by Leadership (4-7).
The Pumas (3-1) recorded a staggering 30 aces in the match, led by eight apiece from senior Nezelle Acosta and junior Cecelia Young. Veniale added five aces, as the Pumas recorded more aces than kills.
Only up 16-12 in the second game, Young began serving and didn’t stop, scoring seven consecutive aces to end the game, capping a 9-0 run.
“Our communication wasn’t there and that’s something we need to continually work on,” said Leadership head coach Nicholas Woo. “We know what we need to work on and we just need the time to work on it.”
The Griffins have been competitive in nearly all of their matches this season, but struggled from the start against Burton, scoring a season-low three points in the first game, while not recording a kill.
Sophomore De’Janae Gilliam led Leadership with three kills in the match.
“Like a lot of teams, we have some veteran players and some who have never played volleyball before,” Woo said. “Frustrations go along with that, but it’s a growing experience.”
For the Pumas, which opened their AAA schedule with a sweep of San Francisco International on Friday, a true sense of just how good they can be will come Tuesday, when they face defending champion Lincoln on the road.
“We can do it,” Jackson said of Burton’s chances to win the AAA title. “It’s a matter of how much the girls want it. It’s always a fight for that fourth playoff spot. If we get in, we can do very well.”