SHIPPENVILLE, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Korrin Burns has been around volleyball all her life.
Her mother, Jodi, was on two PIAA championship teams at Norwin and was an All-American middle hitter at Clarion University. Her three older sisters played and excelled. But when it came time for Burns to join the family business — if the Burns brood had a family crest, it would be a volleyball — she balked.
“I always wanted to be the odd one. I was like, ‘I’m never playing volleyball,’” said Burns, laughing. “I wanted to play soccer.”
But when her mother and sisters dragged Burns to a volleyball camp at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the seventh grade, all that changed.
Suddenly, Burns became enamored with the game.
She finally realized what all the fuss was about.
“I tried it out and I loved it,” Burns said. “I fell in love with the sport. It’s become something of an addiction.”
Burns worked on her game with the help of all those role models around her. She dedicated herself to getting better every day.
Now a senior outside hitter at Clarion High School, Burns is one of the best players in Pennsylvania with a staggering 1,570 career kills to her name. This week, she signed her National Letter of Intent to play collegiately at Division I Saint Francis University. She was also named this week as the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference volleyball MVP.
Burns, though, is never satisfied. If she gets 20 kills in a match — which she has done often — she wants 21. If she makes two errors, she wants to make zero.
Part of her drive comes from within. Some of it comes from those around her.
Jodi is her biggest supporter, but also points out how her daughter can fine tune her game.
“She’s a phenomenal mother,” Burns said, pausing to let out a soft chuckle, shooting a glance at her mother while standing in the kitchen of their Shippenville home. “She’s a phenomenal coach. It’s really awesome to come home after games — she doesn’t say it negatively, she just tells me what I should be working on. She reminds me every day, ‘What are your goals? How are you getting better? Are you getting better or are you getting worse?’”
There was a stretch this season in which Burns’ play felt stagnant.
She was making far too many errors, taking big swings when the situation called for a lighter touch.
Burns went to work on ironing out those kinks in her game. Down the stretch this season and in the playoffs, she has been much more efficient.
“I just realized that I want to be a big hitter, but I would rather be a consistent hitter as well, knowing when to make those big plays and when to make the smart plays,” Burns said. “(Clarion coach Shari Campbell) has been really helping me throughout this process, knowing when to take that big swing and when to take a controlled swing.
“I consider myself a pretty aggressive person,” Burns added. “I always want to just take a big swing and finish the play, but sometimes I need to be a little smarter about it. I’ve been working on being a cleaner player.”
It helps that Burns is surrounded by a wealth of talent on a team that has won 42 consecutive matches dating back to 2019 when Burns was only a sophomore.
Clarion was 24-0 and won a PIAA Class A championship last season. The Bobcats haven’t missed a beat this year, heading into the state quarterfinals against Greensburg Central Catholic on Saturday at Slippery Rock High School with an 18-0 record.
Clarion has won four consecutive District 9 crowns — an accomplishment that is not lost on Burns and her senior teammates who have never known anyone else hoisting a district championship trophy in Class A.
They’ve done it with a cloud hanging over them. Last year, COVID-19 was raging and the team took extraordinary steps to keep from catching the virus and landing in quarantine. This year has also been spent on the edge for the Bobcats as they again have done everything they can to avoid some of the issues that has befallen other teams in the district and around the state.
For Burns, it was a case of knowing each day could be her last on the volleyball court in a Clarion uniform.
“It’s very scary with COVID because we never know when someone is going to get quarantined for any reason,” Burns said. “It’s made going to practice even more special. It’s making me cherish every moment, make every single ball count because we never know what our last play is.”
Burns is hoping her last play comes on the court at Cumberland Valley High School next Saturday in the state title match, a point — perhaps on one of her thunderous kills — that lifts Clarion to another state title.
One of her sisters could join her as a state champion. Ellie (Burns) Proksell is an assistant coach for North Allegheny, which has won four straight PIAA Class 4A titles.
Proksell watched her sister win a state title last season.
The sisters hope to do it again this year.
Proksell played at the University of Pittsburgh for two years, but decided to step away to focus on her speech pathology studies. She ended up playing again at IUP. It just so happened there was a freshman on that team named Olivia Burns.
The two sisters had a chance to play one year together.
The eldest of the four sisters in the Burns family, Karly, played at Mercyhurst University and went on to coach at Mercyhurst Prep.
There’s a brother, too, Jake. He doesn’t play volleyball, but as Korrin Burns said, “He enjoys playing in the back yard with us.”
Volleyball binds the Burns family together.
“When we go on any vacation, we never forget to bring a volleyball,” Korrin Burns said. “When we’re riding bikes, we’ll put a volleyball on the back of the bike in case we want to stop and take a break.
“It’s an awesome environment to be in,” Burns added. “It’s just so amazing to be together. It’s common topic we talk about at the dinner table. It’s amazing to be around the sport. It’s like our life.”