Mother And Daughter Share Common Bond As State Volleyball Champions (11/21/12)

By Chris Rossetti

CLARION – When the Clarion girls’ volleyball team won the state championship Saturday, it was a family affair in the Burns’ household.

That’s because Clarion senior Libero Ellie Burns was the second member of her household to win a state championship joining her mother, Jodi, who won a pair of state titles at Norwin High School outside of Pittsburgh, in the 1980s.

(Photo by Chris Rossetti) Jodi and Ellie Burns proudly display Gold Medals

(Photo by Chris Rossetti)
Jodi and Ellie Burns proudly display Gold Medals

“I’ve heard a lot about them,” Ellie said. “It’s not like she tells me a lot, but I’ve asked her questions, especially about the WPIAL because it’s so different than our KSAC.”

Jodi Burns, who went on to Hall of Fame career at Clarion University as a hitter and then was the head coach for the Golden Eagles as well, came through a volleyball powerhouse at Norwin, perhaps one of the greatest powerhouses in any sport in the state. The Lady Knights won 12 PIAA titles in a 13-year span between 1976-88 with Burns, whose maiden name was Pezek, playing a role in two of those titles – 1984 and 1986.

“The Tuesday night game (for Clarion in the semifinals) against Greensburg Central Catholic really brought it home for me because it (GCC) was close to Norwin,” Jodi said. “A lot of the people who were in my past were in the gym that night. The intensity of the game, the competition, how tight it was, that brought it home.”

Both mother and daughter have moments from their championship seasons that are very special for them.

“The high of coming back and beating GCC (Clarion trailed 2-0 before winning 3-2) and playing what I believe was the best defense of my life is what I remember the most,” Ellie said.

For Jodi, winning two titles, her memories of each are a bit different.

“My sophomore year, our team was stacked,” Jodi recalled. “They were on a mission. My senior season, Baldwin beat us at WPIALs and we finished second. We were gunning for Baldwin at states but Carlisle knocked them out but Baldwin wore Carlisle out. The final game was 15-0, 15-8 because Baldwin took the wind out of Carlisle.”

The celebration for both mother and daughter were unique as well.

For Ellie, the Lady Cats were honored at halftime of Clarion’s District 9 Class A semifinal football game with Brockway at DuBois. In fact, the volleyball team entered the stadium in the first quarter to a standing ovation from the Bobcat faithful.

“It still hadn’t hit me when we got to the football game,” Ellie said. “We got there and everyone was cheering for us. This is what we had worked for. I honestly felt it was a dream, standing on the field and everyone cheering for us. Did we just win? It still hasn’t hit me yet that I’m a state champion.”

For Jodi, the experience was being met as the team reached Irwin by fire trucks and the team getting to go through town on the trucks.

“We came back and they had fire trucks waiting for us,” Jodi recalled. “It was a very cold November day as I remember. We just got to go through Irwin blowing the horn. It was a lot of fun, something really unique to be riding a fire truck for that reason.”

The experiences might have been nearly 30 years apart, but they are experiences mother and daughter will be able to share for a lifetime.

“I remember when we first moved into this house,” Ellie said. “Karly (my older sister) and I were always down in the basement playing with stuffed animals, and we asked mom what are those trophies for and she would explain it to us. But it didn’t really hit us until Karly and I started playing ball.”

(Thanks to Chris Rossetti and  ( for this article.)