Going up, two sets to zip, against the hottest volleyball team in the Boston City League was not a relief for Burke Tuesday afternoon.
After all, the Bulldogs (9-2) also went up two sets on Snowden (9-2) Sept. 25 before losing the match to the Cougars.
“I was really nervous at first, just because I know when you’re up two it’s easier for the other team to get back and Snowden gets back quick and that’s what they did last match,” said Burke senior hitter Cassandra Teneus after her team won, 3-1, Tuesday.
After losing the first two sets, 25-18, 25-15, Snowden rallied to win the third set, 25-18.
This time, however, Burke managed to tough out the final set, 25-23.
Teneus, who collected 9 aces and 6 kills to help upset the first-place team in the Boston City League South, said she just tried to keep her team calm after Snowden won the third set.
“Basically I kept talking to my teammates,” she said. “We knew we had to keep moving our feet and talking to each other."
Teneus also kept her team calm with a cool serve. She served the final 9 points of the first set, including three aces, and served the final 6 points of the second set, including another three aces.
“I’m the captain, I have to get it in, just get it over,” she said. “To me it’s do or die. I have to get my serve over.”
The third set was tight till Snowden scored 6 straight points to go up, 21-13.
“We just fell apart in the third game,” said Burke coach JoAnne Lee-Nieves. “Too many mistakes. We weren’t getting our serves in.”
In the final set, Burke jumped out to a 14-4 edge before Snowden senior setter Xie
Boalan served 9 straight points get her team within 17-16. The teams tied the score three times before Burke senior outside hitter Kirina Laryea tipped it over the net to go up, 24-22.
On the final point of the match, the ball went off Snowden’s side of the net before Snowden hit it to an open spot on Burke’s side of the floor for what seemed like a point to make it 24-24. But Snowden was called for a rotation violation, and the point and the match were Burke’s.
“It’s really big, 1. because it’s my senior year and, 2. because we haven’t been to the Cities in [about 20 years],” Teneus said. “I want to do it big this year. Sometimes our attitudes get in the way but at the end of the way we’re all playing with our hearts.”
The win ties Snowden and Burke at the top of the Boston City League South. O’Bryant (6-3) is also in the mix. Snowden plays O'Bryant on Monday and Burke plays it on Thursday.
“We still have OB, this is just a win,” Teneus said. “OB is next.”
Snowden was without one of its best players, senior hitter Shirley Peng, and its bus also arrived late, so they did not have a proper warmup.
“If she was here, I’m quite sure we would’ve pulled it out,” said Snowden coach Margaret Cash-Griffin. “I thought they were too excited. They came in knowing it would be a tough game.
"[Burke is] athletic and determined to win and very aggressive.”
Burke and Snowden share a gym, so Lee-Nieves has had plenty of opportunities to scout Snowden.
“I think the kids were really prepared to play them,” said Lee-Nieves, who has coached Burke since 1979, minus four or five years she took off from the team. “I knew if we could just set the ball up and attack them, we’d have a chance.”
Teneus and senior setter Brenda Calderon, who contributed six assists and once ace, have played for Lee-Nieves for four years.
“Just going to the playoffs, this is what I’ve been working for,” Lee-Nieves said. “It would mean everything to get in the playoffs this year. Not so much for myself but for [Teneus and Calderon]. They have really worked hard.”