Eyes set on revenge, girls’ varsity volleyball marches on through the midseason point


Zachary Shapiro

Junior outside hitter Maddie Langlinais prepares to receive a serve from Carlmont.


Since league play began for girls’ varsity volleyball (14-6 overall, 6-1 Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division), all eyes have been on Hillsdale High School. Burlingame hasn’t beaten the Knights since the fall of 2019. Last season, their only two in-league losses came against Hillsdale. And following the graduation of many of Hillsdale’s star players, the Panthers believed their away matchup against Hillsdale on Sept. 23 was their time to break that spell.

Alas, the ball did not bounce their way. The Panthers would go on to get swept in straight sets.

“I think it was the fact that they’ve lost to them in the past three years,” head coach Nga Tran said. “They hadn’t defeated them, so they were in their heads.”

The energetic atmosphere of a packed Hillsdale gym covered in blue and red played a part in Burlingame’s downfall as well.

“Our fans are super loud and supportive, and I think that was the first time where we were away and their fans were just as loud and in your face as well,” Coach Tran said.

These two factors combined for not only the tough loss, but also a hit to the team’s demeanor.

“We got mad at each other,” senior co-captain Mallory Novitzky said. “Everybody got upset and it didn’t click — we need to maintain our synergy because that’s what is helping us win every game.”

Riding a six-game win streak, Burlingame was full steam ahead prior to the loss at Hillsdale, which seemingly stopped them in their tracks. A regroup was necessary, and they did exactly that.

Following the stinging loss to league rivals Hillsdale High School, Burlingame responded swiftly with a podium finish in a Sept. 24 tournament and two four-set wins to put themselves at No. 1 in the league.

Carlmont came to town Tuesday, Sept. 27 and despite the fact that they were missing film for a scouting report, spirits were high heading into the game.

“We knew they were going to be a bit scrappy and all over the place, but we go into every game expecting the same exact thing,” Novitzky said.

After a hot start, comfortably winning the first set, Burlingame ran into some second set hurdles. Momentum bounced back and forth between Burlingame and Carlmont. Carlmont jumped ahead early but with some powerful kills and a loud student section, the score was brought to 23-23. However, despite a huge swing and a subsequent clever dump-over from freshman Ava Scatena, the Scots’ managed to return the ball back to the Panthers, who were then called for a double touch. Carlmont closed out the set on the next point.

Now tied at 1-1, the Panthers kicked themselves in the heels after gaining what seemed like a compelling lead in the opening set. “The second set we always struggle with,” Novitzky said. “We have a hard time maintaining how we’re playing.”

The second set victory by Carlmont inspired a shouting match between their players, coaches and Burlingame fans. Nonetheless, a fired up Carlmont team didn’t get in the way of the Panthers.

The third set began with a 2-1 Carlmont lead, but after a high-flying Duong kill, the team never looked back. Burlingame won the third set 25-18.

The fourth set would similarly begin with the Scots’ jumping ahead, but back-to-back kills from Toomey and Langlinais gave them a lead that they wouldn’t lose for the rest of the set. 

The Panthers finished off the game emphatically with Duong’s 19th kill of the match, winning the final set 25-11.

So the Panthers roared on. 

They backed up their triumph over Carlmont in a convincing 3-1 win against Half Moon Bay last Thursday, Sept. 29 to open up their stretch of five away games.

“We realized how to bring back our own energy,” junior Morgan Toomey said about the Half Moon Bay game. “Definitely going to focus on carrying that same energy into the upcoming games.”

Following two more weeks of away games, the varsity Panthers will have their homecoming against none other than Hillsdale on Tuesday, Oct. 18. In an interesting twist of fate, Hillsdale now trails behind Burlingame in the league standings after dropping two games to Aragon and Sequoia, teams the Panthers beat in five sets and four sets respectively.

“Redemption,” coach Tran said. “We’re tougher than that… we’ll see them in three weeks.”