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Girls Volleyball

Crosstown Rivalry Brings Out Best in Santa Barbara; Dons Beat San Marcos in 5 Sets

The Santa Barbara girls volleyball team celebrates after beating rival San Marcos in five sets. Click to view larger
The Santa Barbara girls volleyball team celebrates after beating rival San Marcos in five sets. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

It’s crazy what the magic of a crosstown rivalry can do for an underdog.

Santa Barbara High’s girls volleyball came into the San Marcos Thunderhut on Thursday at 0-2 in Channel League and facing a Royals team that was on a roll, having just beat defending league and CIF champion Ventura in five sets.

Santa Barbara played like it was under a magic spell. The Dons served tough, scrambled on defense, got clutch hitting and played with grit in knocking off San Marcos in an epic five sets, 29-27 25-9, 20-25, 21-25, 15-12.

When the final point was scored, Santa Barbara students rushed the court and swarmed the volleyball players, knocking them to the floor. The players didn’t seem to mind, though. They were beaming after pulling off their biggest win of the season.

"The fan base was awesome," said senior Erika Foreman. "That's never happened to me before."

Foreman had 16 kills to share team honors with Chloe Mauceri and picked 15 digs. Mauceri added 11 digs. Reece Kelley played a strong game, posting 15 kills on a .355 hitting percentage and scooping 18 digs.  Brynn Hodosy was steady in the back row with her passing and collected 19 digs.

Jenna MacFarlane led the San Marcos attack with 24 kills, Sierra Palladino had nine kills and Brynn Sofro and Leila Parker added six apiece. Grace Matthew led the defense with 24 digs. Setters Taylor Hantgin and Ellie Gamberdella had 17 and 14 assists, respectively.

Erika Foreman of the Dons blocks a spike attempt by San Marcos middle Kristine Fimlaid. Click to view larger
Erika Foreman of the Dons blocks a spike attempt by San Marcos middle Kristine Fimlaid. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

"I just think we had a lot of incentive to win tonight," Foreman said of Santa Barbara's strong play. "Obviously, (San Marcos) is our rival and we had a lot of desire to win tonight. We’ve had a rough start, but we’ve continually gotten better over the season. I feel tonight was a turning point. Hopefully, from now on we’ll get some more W’s."

The first set was a good indication this might be a special night for Santa Barbara. The Dons (1-2 in league) roared back from a 24-18 deficit and won 29-27.

The serving of Kelley and the hitting of  Foreman ignited a three-point run and the Dons kept it going on a big kill by Mauceri and a Maurceri-Georgia Brace combo block to tie the score at 24-all.

The teams traded points until a mis-hit by San Marcos tied the score at 27. Foreman followed with the a kill down the line and the winning point for the Dons came when San Marcos was called for a back-row blocker on a ball that went high above the net after dig.

Smiling and feeling good about their play, the Dons carried the momentum of the huge comeback into Set 2 and never let up, rolling to an 18-5 lead behind tough serving from Foreman and Maurceri.

"We decided we had nothing to lose," Foreman said. "We’re 0-2 in league, they won against Ventura and they’ve won some good games. We’re just going to come out, have fun and do our best and it worked out well. We played loose."

"The resiliency," said an impressed Dons coach Chad Arneson. "These girls have lost a lot, but they keep fighting, they keep working hard in practice, their attitudes are great. It’s been tough, I got to be honest with you. It’s been a rough, rough month. But, you know what, these girls kept grinding it out, they showed no quit. I was really proud of the team effort."

San Marcos co-coach Tina Brown credited Santa Barbara's serving as a difference in the match.

Reece Kelley had 15 kills and hit .355 for Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Reece Kelley had 15 kills and hit .355 for Santa Barbara. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

"They served tough and we did not pass well, and it went through the entire game," she said. "Our passing was very up and down. We actually have a very solid passing team. I was surprised, but they served tough. Those beach girls can put a pretty good little top spin on the ball."

The score was tight in the third set until an ace by AJ Huerta-Leipner gave San Marcos (2-1 in league) the lead for good.  A superb dig by Taylor Hantgin led to a kill by Leila Parker that put the Royals up 17-15 and Molly Kirkbride and Bella Johnson combined on a pair of blocks and Johnson added a kill, extending the lead to 20-17.

A Johnson kill from the right side gave San Marcos the 25-20 win and kept the Royals in the match.

"Taylor Hantgin and Molly Kirkbride gave us a huge, huge lift and did some great things for us," said Brown.

The Royals capitalized on a series of Santa Barbara hitting errors and got kills by Kendall Williams and MacFarlane and an ace serve from Huerta-Leipner to go up 18-13 in the fourth set. 

Santa Barbara regrouped and got to within two (22-20), but San Marcos held on behind a solo block by middle Brynn Sofro and a kill by Parker.

Despite dropping the last two sets, Santa Barbara kept its poise and opened up a 7-3 lead in the fifth set. Kelley started it off with a kill from the left side and Ellie Chenoweth served an ace. Mauceri put away a couple of balls and combined again with Brace for a block.

"Our serving was great," Arneson said. "I got to give Desiree Partlow, my assistant, a lot of credit for drilling those girls in practice on serving and serving tough. We kept (San Marcos) off balance and they became predictable."

San Marcos fought back and scored four straight points. Palladino had a kill and Kirkbride blocked a ball during the run. The Royals took a 9-8 lead on a tip by Palladino and a kill from Sofro in the middle.

But Santa Barbara kept battling. Foreman got a side out and Skinner and Kelley delivered kills for an 11-9 lead. Chenoweth then made a huge play, winning a joust against Williams to make it 12-9.

Two more kills by Kelley down the stretch sent the Dons on their way to the stunning victory. 

"It’s about as good as a high school match gets. It was pretty fun, if you take out Game 2," said Brown. "They fought hard and battled, but it’s disappointing, obviously. Every match counts and you got to bring it each time." 

She added: "Santa Barbara played really well. They played great defense and stepped up. I think our kids stepped up, but we didn’t finish. And that’s the difference."

Arneson was thrilled to see his players pull off the win.

"That was a huge, huge win," he said. "It’s probably the most satisfying win that I've had in the girls program for sure. I am so proud of the way the girls competed."

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Santa Barbara setter Ellie Chenoweth goes low to keep a ball in play as teammate Linnea Skinner looks on. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara setter Ellie Chenoweth goes low to keep a ball in play as teammate Linnea Skinner looks on. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)
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