Varsity Volleyball head coach Drew Burdette left the team this Monday, days before the last two league games of the season. Burdette was also head of Marlborough’s entire volleyball program.
Varsity assistant coach and junior varsity head coach Ashlyn Dibrell is filling in as his temporary replacement until the season’s end. The second varsity assistant coach and head coach of frosh/soph volleyball Hunter Douglas has stepped up his help for
Athletic Director Sheila Pauley did not give an explanation for Burdette’s sudden departure.
“I can’t comment on personnel matters,” Pauley said in an email.
The varsity team had no prior warning. Team captains Bella ‘20, Katie ‘20 and Helena ’21 met with Pauley shortly before their scheduled 5 p.m. practice Monday night when they were told of Burdette’s exit.
“Five minutes before [the meeting], we were let in the loop, but then
five minutes after, Ms. Pauley told the whole team,” Bella said.
Varsity Volleyball was preparing for the two remaining, and most important, games of their season. Tuesday was their last home game against Notre Dame, and Thursday was an away game against Flintridge Sacred Heart. The team had to win these two games to remain in the running for the top two ranking in the Mission League of the Los Angeles Athletic Association, a league that includes Harvard-Westlake and Marymount. Placing second in the league would guarentee their placement in the league next season.
The Tuesday game was also “Senior Night,” where the team hoped for a victory in honor of the last home game of their four senior players.
Bella said the team captains hoped to convince their team to look past the last-minute change and concentrate on improving their performance.
“We have to make sure everyone stays focused and respectful towards our new coach and isn’t distracted with gossip as to why our coach isn’t coaching us anymore,” Bella said. “It’s going to be our job to unite the team.”
Dibrell and Douglas have attended varsity practices and games as assistant varsity coaches. Bella said the team’s familiarity with the coaches eased the transition
But, that Monday night, hours after learning of Burdette’s departure, senior varsity player Caroline said she could not predict how the team would
perform. Based on varsity’s previous scoring patterns, she said the team was projected to win both games.
“It all happened today, so no one was expecting this,” Caroline said. “We have two games this week, and we need both these games to be wins. The coaching change, though we love both coaches, is still a big thing to do in the middle of the season.”
Widely publicized as the “white out” game on Oct. 1, spectators including Pauley and Head of School Dr.Priscilla Sands had gathered in Combs Gym for free t-shirts, raffle prizes and a much-anticipated match against rival Harvard-Westlake.
When varsity lost a point, Burdette hurled a volleyball into the crowd, which hit Marlborough students in attendance. He sent out an apology email later that evening to all students in the volleyball program, their parents and Marlborough’s sports staff. No one was injured.
“Please accept my sincerest apologies for hitting the volleyball into the spectators section during tonight’s match,” Burdette wrote in the email. “I certainly did, yes did, mean to hit that ball. Where it landed was most certainly not what I intended to do; regardless of my intentions the act itself was not unacceptable [sic]. I’m terribly sorry to have done that.”
He ended his email, writing: “You have my word nothing like that will happen again here or anywhere else.” Varsity ultimately won the game 3-0, the first time Marlborough has beaten Harvard-Westlake since 2015.
According to Caroline, it is common for volleyball coaches to grow excited throughout the game. As a club volleyball player, who previously had Burdette as a coach outside of school, Caroline said incidents like these are fairly widespread. There is no indication that this incident factored into Burdette’s departure.
Varsity trounced Notre Dame 3-1 but lost to Flintridge Sacred Heart 3-1. This loss means they will not advance to CIF championships, but they may still remain in the top-two of the league depending on other teams’ performances.