Jerry Burge works a 9-to-5 job, which meant that sacrifices were needed from the Urbana High volleyball team.
By 5:15 a.m. on most August mornings inside of the school’s gymnasium, volleyballs were sailing through the air. The Hawks would practice for a couple of hours. Burge would go to work, and then they’d all come back and practice later in the day for two more hours. The last ball would be struck around 10 p.m.
“We didn’t complain,” said senior setter/outside hitter Trinity Burge, the coach’s daughter and reigning All-Area Co-Player of the Year. “We put on our music and did our warmups and our workouts. We got out there and did what we needed to do. They weren’t useless practices.”
It was a small price to pay for a team full of club players that came within a victory of winning Urbana’s first state title in the sport last November and returns mostly intact.
“We are relentless,” Trinity Burge said Thursday night after the Hawks pulled off the rare feat of going into Oakdale’s gym and sweeping the Bears, 25-16, 25-21, 25-18, to improve to 2-0 on the season. “There isn’t a bad player on this team. Everyone makes everyone better.”
Jerry Burge is back on the bench for the first time in 19 years for the opportunity to coach his three daughters in the program — and also because of the potential he sees with this group.
“My team is a mature team. They know how to play steady and calm,” he said.
That showed up in the late stages of each set Thursday, as the Hawks would make the decisive run to close out Oakdale. For example, the third set was knotted at 17 before Urbana won eight of the final nine points.
The Bears (1-1) are hardly pushovers. They return outside hitter Jess Twilley, the All-Area Co-Player of the Year along with Burge, first-team All-Area setter Sydney Katz and second-team outside hitter Jen Chomiak.
So, sweeping them off their own floor is not easy.
“They stayed steady. That’s what I love about this team,” Jerry Burge said. “They are nice and calm, and they know how to play.”
As she often does, Trinity Burge set the tone with nine kills and 15 digs. Sophomore libero Penelope Hiepler finished with 13 digs, sophomore setter Tatiana Johnson had 18 assists, and senior middle hitter Tera Sackey added five kills and three blocks.
In practice, Jerry Burge will often put his players on the spot. He’ll say that one of them needs to make five consecutive serves or else the entire team will run suicides. The drill continues until five serves are made.
Again, it’s a small price for the Hawks.
“Getting to [University of] Maryland last season [for the Class 4A final against Northwest] made us want [the title] that much more,” Trinity Burge said. “I know, for my senior year, I would like a state title.”
For Oakdale, Chomiak had a team-high eight kills. Katz finished with 21 assists, and Twilley produced 13 digs.
The Bears opened the season with a four-set victory over reigning 1A state champion Clear Spring. Then, they faced Urbana, the 4A runner-up last season, before taking on 2A champion Williamsport next week.
“It’s good,” Oakdale coach Jim Dorsch said. “We are playing tough competition. We are learning what we need to do to get better.”