Burlingame has lost in the quarterfinals of the Central Coast Section Division III girls’ volleyball playoffs each of the past three years and one would think this result could become disheartening.
But after earning a No. 2-seed in last year’s playoffs, their highest seeding in the three years, the Panthers are motivated to get over that hurdle.
“It’s been tough, but I think the girls are really resilient,” Burlingame coach Steve Erle said.
Burlingame finished below .500 prior to the current three-year run, and Erle has seen the team’s culture change in that time.
“Years ago, the goal was to make it to CCS,” Erle said. “These girls have the mindset that they want to win CCS. They’re getting frustrated.”
Burlingame brings back a trio of outside hitters, including all-league honorable mention junior Laura Neumayr and senior Vanessa Neumann.
Neumayr is switching to outside hitter from libero for the upcoming season.
Middle blocker Kristen Chaney and sophomore outside hitter Morgan McKeever should also give the Panthers a much-needed boost.
Erle said McKeever has a ton of potential.
The pressure to win has also come from the Burlingame community.
Many of the sports at Burlingame have claimed CCS titles, including football and baseball, but volleyball is still waiting.
“At Burlingame, we’ve been lucky we’ve had some pretty successful athletic programs,” Erle said. “We’re hoping this is our year.”
With these elevated expectations, Burlingame is testing itself with two tournaments where it will see some of the best teams in the Bay Area.
“We want to know what teams we’ll be playing when we get to CCS,” Erle said. “If we get past the first round, these are the teams we’re going to see.”
Much of the Burlingame team plays on club teams throughout the year and are familiar with some of the girls on opposing teams, Erle said.
“They know these girls; they know they’re good,” he said.
Erle said some of his players looked back to last season with some of the stellar play of individual players, such as Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division MVP Michelle Neumayr, and were unsure where that production would come from this season.
“The most important thing is to start thinking like a team,” Erle said. “We had some great seniors; every year they need to start thinking these seniors are just as good.”
Burlingame ran through the league schedule last season, but will face major opposition from a number of teams in 2011.
Erle sees Menlo-Atherton, Half Moon Bay and Carlmont as the biggest threats to his team repeating as league champions.
“There are no walks in the Bay; it’s just not going to happen,” Erle said.