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From the Bench: Bridgeport High Coach Ali Burton's Efforts in Volleyball Earn Her Top Dog Status in State

By Jeff Toquinto on November 15, 2020 from Sports Blog via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Bridgeport High School, for a long time, has been competitive on the volleyball front. The program, however, has taken major strides in recent years to going beyond competitive to state title contenders.
 
Not only did the Indians win their first state championship in Class AA in 2018, but they also returned to try and defend it in 2019; falling in the semifinals. And on Saturday, the Tribe was back in Charleston yet again – this time in Class AAA – looking for yet another crown.
 
The local community is not the only ones that has noticed. The National Federal of High Schools and the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission has noticed as well. And they have made note of the person guiding the ship in Coach Ali Burton.
 
At the Charleston Civic Center Saturday, those two organizations named Burton as the state coach of the year. Not just for Class AAA, but for the entire state of West Virginia.
 
BHS Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Mark Jones said the honor was more than deserved.
 
“One thing about Coach Burton is she does a great job of holding student-athletes accountable. She runs a tight ship, but that ship allows he athletes to do well on the floor and be successful,” said Jones. “I think the results of how she handles the program speaks for itself.”
 
Burton arrived in 2014 after playing and then coaching for a couple of years in an assistant capacity at Greenbrier East High School. When she arrived, the program was not bad, but it had little in the form of coaching stability.
 
“When I got here, I was the fourth coach for the senior class,” said Burton. “I imagine they were thinking ‘here we go again.’ The underclassmen realized this coaching staff was going to stay here for them and they bought into it.
 
“That first year we didn’t make it to the state tournament, and you could tell it drove them crazy,” she continued. “From that point forward, it became easier to get a buy in from everyone because everyone was on the same page and everyone was committed to winning. The best part was that the kids showed the new players coming into the program what was expected, and that was to be the best they could be.”
 
Apparently, the method is working. After four coaches in four years, Burton has helped lead another streak. Qualifying for this year’s state tournament made it six years in a row the program headed to Charleston. And that is what Burton has now – a program.
 
“She’s done a great job of getting the program to a high level and keeping it there,” said Jones, a former coach himself at the high school level. “It’s a reflection of her paying attention to the little things that make student-athletes successful in the classroom and on the floor. The students pay attention, too, and that’s the reason for the success and a big reason she is being honored.”
 
While Burton did not make too big of a deal of the honor, she was happy to learn about it from the administration prior to the state tournament.
 
“It’s definitely a good feeling. I feel honored and blessed to be recognized,” said Burton. “It goes back to the students we’ve had since we started here that are willing to commit to what we’re trying to build. Nothing that has been accomplished, including this honor, happens without the commitment of the players. Now the goal is to continue competing into the future in Class AAA.”
 
Burton has a leg up there. As a former Spartan at GEHS, she has plenty of contacts in Class AAA. She said that paid off even prior to this season back in the big school classification.
 
“If you look back, we were in ‘AAA’ tournaments because those were the coaches I knew. I think that has helped us with the move to ‘AAA’ and why were able to be competitive in our first year,” said Burton. “The goal is to keep that going.”
 
Editor's Note: Photos of Ali Burton by Ben Queen Photography. Top photo shows Ali Curry receiving her honor Saturday from Dr. Cindy Daniel, left, and Bernie Dolan, right, of the WVSSAC.


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