It didn’t matter whether Taylor Burbage was in the front or back row, she was going to get the ball.
The Bellevue East senior pounded down 31 kills, including three late, to help the Chieftains rally to defeat Class A, No. 10 Grand Island 25-14, 17-25, 23-25, 25-19, 17-15 Tuesday at Senior High School.
Bellevue East coach Robyn Cascio-Jensen said Burbage has been the go-to player for the Chieftains this season.
“She has really controlled the flow for us the entire season,” Cascio-Jensen said. “I don’t know how nobody can be impressed with her after watching her play, I see her everyday in practice and she impresses me. She’s been one of the most fun kids to coach and is an extremely hard worker. She does great things for us.”
Grand Island coach Bill Root agreed.
“She’s a competitor and likes to swing at it,” Root said. “She’s a difference-maker but we really had our chances.”
After both teams dominated in taking wins the first two sets, the Islanders trailed 23-22 in set 3. Burbage had 10 kills in that set alone. But an Abby Crouch kill and a Sarah Splattstoesser ace serve gave Grand Island a 24-23 lead. At set point, Brittany Blase blocked Burbage to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead in the match.
But Burbage continued her strong play to start the fourth set, coming up with three early kills to give Bellevue East a 6-1 lead, which the Chieftains held throughout to force a fifth set.
“I was proud to see the kids come back after losing the second and third sets,” Cascio-Jensen said. “That’s tough. I told them after the third set ‘You are playing them tough and I hope that gets you motivated to keep battling’ and the kids responded well.”
But it was Grand Island which got the upper hand early in the fifth. Taylor Kinne had four kills to help put the Islanders up 9-5.
Slowly, Bellevue East worked its back into the match, eventually tying it at 11-all on an Islander error.
But back-to-back kills from Kirsten Sullivan, who had a team-high 16, gave Grand Island a 13-11 lead. However, a service error and two straigh blocks by Burbage gave the Chieftains a 14-13 lead.
Sullivan kept the Islanders in the match with another kill. After the two teams traded points, Bellevue East took a 16-15 lead on a Burbage back-row kill, and the match ended on a Grand Island error.
The Chieftains hold a 2-1 lead on the Islanders this year in their three matches. The two teams split during the Millard North Invite during the second week of the season.
Cascio-Jensen said the Chieftains are playing only three seniors so this type of match was for the younger players.
“We are playing a lot of young kids and these types of matches are great experiences for them in the future,” Cascio-Jensen said. “Most of them don’t have varsity experience. Grand Island is such a great defensive team and they control the ball very well. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy to get through and it never is with them.”
Besides Sullivan’s 16 kills, Kinne chipped in with 10 kills while Crouch added eight and Ashton Riedy had six.
Grand Island missed 20 serves against Bellevue East. Root said it was better than the 19 serves missed in getting swept by No. 3 Lincoln Southwest Sept. 25, but still needs to improve.
“We missed some serves that cost us,” Root said. “It was better tonight than it was against Southwest but we still have to get better in that department. That’s a mental thing. Hopefully we can take the positive things from this match and build from it.”
Grand Island will play Thursday at Lincoln Northeast.
Bellevue East (6-14)...................25 17 23 25 17
Grand Island (12-11)......................14 25 25 19 15
BELLEVUE EAST (Kills-aces-blocks) — Christina Jerauld 5-0-1, Rylie Casico-Jensen 0-1-0, Kaitlin Kozusko 4-0-0, Breanna Bollow 1-1-1, Morgan Lampe 4-0-0, Sydney Slie 0-1-0, Emmalynne Splichal 1-2-0, Taylor Burbage 31-4-5.
GRAND ISLAND (Kills-aces-blocks) — Haley Weakland 0-1-0, Sarah Splattstoesser 0-2-0, Ashton Riedy 6-3-0, Abby Crouch 8-0-2, Kirsten Sullivan 16-5-1, Mackenzie Puckett 2-0-0, McKenzie Fyfe 4-0-0, Taylor Kinne 10-0-0, Brittany Blase 1-1-0.
ASSISTS — BE: Splichal 36, Burbage 2, Kozusko 1. GISH: Fyfe 40, Weakland 1.