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Boys Volleyball

Dane Westwick Provides Spark for Santa Barbara in 4-Set Win Over San Marcos

Santa Barbara’s Henry Hancock hits over San Marcos blockers Jake Sofro, left, and Parker Bittner. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara’s Henry Hancock hits over San Marcos blockers Jake Sofro, left, and Parker Bittner. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Dane Westwick was the shortest guy at the net during a rotation for the Santa Barbara High boys volleyball team in the critical third set of an even match with crosstown rival San Marcos.

The 5-foot-10 Westwick, however, played like he was 6-5 as he recorded back-to-back stuff blocks to spark a four-point run that enabled the Dons to take a 2-1 lead in sets. They closed out the Royals in the fourth set to complete a 24-26, 25-14, 25-18, 25-20 victory in a Channel League match at J.R. Richards Gym on Tuesday night.

“That was definitely a good turning point,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson said of Westwick’s blocks. “Dane is kind of the glue of the team; he quietly gets it done. I was telling the boys I hope they can block as well as Dane does. He’s a steady player. He lets his play do the talking. He kept everyone calm.”

On his blocking, Westwick said: “A lot of it is just technique. It’s obviously not my height because I’m one of the shorter guys on the team. I’ve been playing front row long enough that I can just watch the hitter and put my hands up and get a little lucky sometimes.”

Ben Roach of Santa Barbara tries to hit past Liam Morando, left, and Parker Bittner of San Marcos. Click to view larger
Ben Roach of Santa Barbara tries to hit past Liam Morando, left, and Parker Bittner of San Marcos. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Westwick’s blocking was one of the many contributions he made in the Dons’ victory. The junior setter did a nice job spreading the ball around, dishing out 38 assists. He also had eight digs.

Outside hitters Will Rottman, Henry Hancock and Ben Roach benefited from Westwick’s handiwork. Rottman led the Dons with 15 kills, Hancock buried 10 and Roach put away seven. Hancock also had three blocks and six digs.

Arneson was pleased to see Hancock produce.

“Henry came back from San Diego (at the Best of the West Tournament two weekends ago) with ankle injury and I thought he stepped it up and put some balls away when we needed them.”

Santa Barbara overcame a sluggish start and inspired play by San Marcos in the first set. 

“It was an ugly set, a lot of delays and definitely frustrating, but I got to give San Marcos credit,”  Arneson said. “I thought Kyle (Benskin) had those guys ready to play. I think we underestimated them a little bit and they did a good job running combo plays and keeping us off balance. We just needed to settle down and get back to the basics of serving and passing. We were able to steady out a bit.”

Westwick said once he and his teammates got going they found their rhythm and were able to do some damage.

It took some time, though, as San Marcos played stellar defense and put together a solid attack. Libero Ben Beifuss was outstanding, picking up several big blasts by Santa Barbara hitters. Meanwhile, outside hitters Jake Sofro and Clay Nerdin and middle Parker Bittner put away sets from Braeden Lisea.

“We had a game plan against them and I felt it worked really well,” San Marcos coach Kyle Benskin said. “It was toward the end we started making those little mistakes that really hurt us.”

Jake Sofro of San Marcos hits against Santa Barbara’s Parker Mees, left, and Henry Hancock. Click to view larger
Jake Sofro of San Marcos hits against Santa Barbara’s Parker Mees, left, and Henry Hancock. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Kills by Sofro, Nerdin and Bittner pulled the Royals into a 22-22 tie in the first set. Nerdin sided out for a 25-24 lead and San Marcos scored the winning point on a Santa Barbara hitting error."

“They came out with a lot more fire than us,” Westwick said.

Sofro led the Royals with 13 kills, while Bittner and Nerdin added 11 apiece.

Benskin relied on Bittner and Nerdin quite a bit in the match

“We really wanted to attack their middle. The last few games there’s been a disconnect with our middles. This game we finally got it going,” said Benskin of Bittner’s play.

Nerdin got more playing time after impressing his coach during the Dos Pueblos Invitational over the weekend.

“He had huge tournament, so I figured tonight why don’t we put him out there and he did really well,” said Benskin.

San Marcos carried momentum into the second set. A service ace by Nerdin gave the Royals a 3-1 lead.

But Santa Barbara started gelling. Two blasts by Hancock and an ace by Rottman triggered a 6-2 run that put the Dons ahead 17-11. A side-out kill and a service ace by Roach keyed a four-point surge for a 22-13 advantage. The set ended on back-to-back San Marcos hitting errors.

After stuff block by Rottman broke a 9-9 tie in the third set, Westwick showed his stuff as a blocker on the next two plays. San Marcos was then called for a net, giving the Dons a 13-9 lead.

Santa Barbara shook off a net call on its side as Rottman buried a couple hits and Westwick scored on a dump after a nice dig by Roach in the back row to go up 16-10. Roach provided another kill and a block, and the Dons capitalized on San Marcos errors down the stretch.

The Royals led 9-8 in the fourth set before Santa Barbara went on a five-point run to take command. A dump by Westwick scored the 24th point and Hancock put the ball away for the final point of the match.

“They came prepared, San Marcos,” Arneson said. “It was nice to get the win, we’ll take it. We know DP is going to bring it and hopefully we can show everyone a really fun volleyball match before spring break.”

Santa Barbara (7-5, 2-0) plays host to Dos Pueblos on Thursday. San Marcos (6-6, 1-2) is home against Buena.

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.

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