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Burnham earns success on sand

Beach Volleyball

Former Newport Harbor High standout has found her niche with new sport at USC.

June 11, 2013|By Steve Virgen
  • Kirby Burnham, a former Newport Harbor High standout, finished ninth at the FIVB U23 World Championships in Poland.
Kirby Burnham, a former Newport Harbor High standout,… (Dan Avila )

After a ninth-place finish in the FIVB Beach Volleyball U23 World Championships, Kirby Burnham didn't want to sit around and sulk in disappointment.

She didn't even want to take a tour of Myslowice, Poland. Burnham, the former Newport Harbor High standout, only wanted to train. As the tournament continued, she practiced in Poland.

When she returned from Poland Monday night, she woke up Tuesday morning and wanted to practice some more in Newport Beach. There is no time to rest now. Burnham wants to improve. She has lofty goals in mind. She knows she can play two more years of sand volleyball at USC. Then there are goals of playing on the FIVB World Tour and taking her shot at the 2016 Olympics. She has the desire to keep on playing and shoot for the 2020 Olympics.

As she becomes closer to reaching each goal, she can credit moments like the ones in Poland for making her stronger.

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"As soon as we got back from Poland she had that mentality that 'I want to be training and I want to get ready,'" said Anna Collier, the U.S. U23 coach who is also the USC sand volleyball coach. "[The U23 World Championships] took her to another level in her mind. She can be as good as these other players. She knows that is the next generation of beach volleyball players she played against. It really kicked her up a notch. It was great to see. You see the passion in her eye. It's a big light bulb that went on. I really believe it clicked. She's thinking, 'I can do this' and more important, 'I want to do this.'"

Burnham certainly garnered confidence before the ninth-place finish in Poland, where she teamed with Tara Roenicke out of Long Beach State.

Burnham is familiar with Roenicke. Burnham won the American Volleyball Coaches Assn. national title with Stevi Robinson against Roenicke and Caitlin Ledoux last month.

The national championship provided excitement for Burnham and made many at USC proud. To win a national title in her second year in the sport gave her more incentive to continue to work hard.

Dan Glenn, the Newport Harbor girls' volleyball coach, and Collier both said Burnham has great potential in beach volleyball.

Glenn said Burnham has the tools to succeed on the sand. She was talented while indoor during her senior year in 2009 when she helped the Sailors win CIF State Division 1 and CIF Southern Section Division 1-AA titles.

She played two seasons of indoor at USC and has made a smooth transition into sand volleyball for the Trojans.

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