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Girls Volleyball

Dos Pueblos’ Defense Turns Back Santa Barbara for First League Volleyball Win

Alison Minnich scrambles on the floor to make one of her 32 digs for Dos Pueblos in a five-set win over Santa Barbara. Also going to the floor is Olivia Andrews. Click to view larger
Alison Minnich scrambles on the floor to make one of her 32 digs for Dos Pueblos in a five-set win over Santa Barbara. Also going to the floor is Olivia Andrews. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Down 7-4 in the fifth set against rival Santa Barbara High, Dos Pueblos’ defense came to the rescue and ignited a seven-point run that sparked the Chargers to a 15-11 win, giving them their first Channel League victory on Tuesday night at Sovine Gym.

The digging of libero Alison Minnich and defensive specialist Oliveya Leon and the blocking of middle Danielle LaGrange spurred the rally in the fifth set and spoiled a tremendous comeback by the Dons, who lost the first two sets.

The match scores were 25-14,  25-15, 23-25, 15-25, 15-11. 

Minnich said the Chargers were determined to win after losing their first three league matches. 

“We talked in the huddle and we were like, ‘We’re going to win this game; we’re going to give our all; we’re going to play great because we’re all in and we’re just going to do our best and cheer for everyone.’

“(Coach) Megan (O’Carroll) said we need to finish this game not wanting to move. I think we finished this game with so much energy and so much defense and offense and hustle that we are so tired we want to go home and sleep.”

And have pleasant dreams.

Danielle LaGrange of Dos Pueblos hits through Santa Barbara blockers Georgia Brace (9) and Reece Kelley (12). Click to view larger
Danielle LaGrange of Dos Pueblos hits through Santa Barbara blockers Georgia Brace (9) and Reece Kelley (12). (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

“It’s been a rough couple of weeks,” said O’Carroll, who won her first league game as a varsity coach. “After going 0-3, I told our team we had two choices: We can feel bad about it and be sad and that will dictate the rest of the season. Or, we can be motivated and inspired and have nothing to lose. We’re the underdogs coming up against anyone and they’re expected to beat us. So, we fight and come together and want it more than them and we come out on top. That’s exactly what happened tonight."

LaGrange responded after the Chargers fell behind 6-3 in the fifth set. She had a stuff block and then tied the score at 7-7 on a tip the Dons were unable to return. A kill by outside hitter Olivia Andrews put the Chargers ahead, 8-7.

Then came a key play in the run. Minnich made a terrific dig and the Chargers converted it into a Andrews kill for a 9-7 lead. A tough serve by Becky McKinny resulted in an overpass that LaGrange put away and the 6-foot-4 sophomore followed with a block of Dons’ standout Chloe Mauceri for an 11-7 advantage.

Erika Foreman finally sided out for Santa Barbara, but DP answered with two more points. Digs by Leon and McKinny resulted in a LaGrange kill, and Minnich came up with another big dig that the Chargers transitioned into an Ally Mintzer kill for a 13-8 lead.

The hustle by setter Grace Crozier gave DP the finishing point. She ran down a low pass headed for the net and bumped it up for Mintzer, who tipped the ball into an open spot on the Dons’ side.

Middles LaGrange and Mintzer led the Dos Pueblos attack with 15 and 13 kills, respectively, and each had 10 blocks. Katelyn Mires added eight kills and five blocks. 

Minnich led a stellar defensive effort with 32 digs and Leon and Crozier each had 15. 

“After every match, me and my assistant Sarah McKinny say, ‘How does Alison do it, because she is incredible,’” O’Carroll said. “I don’t think there is a libero  better than her in Channel League or in our region. She reads the hitters really well. Some of the balls she gets up seems like magic.

Dos Pueblos setter Grace Crozier puts the ball up for middle attacker Ally Mintzer. Click to view larger
Dos Pueblos setter Grace Crozier puts the ball up for middle attacker Ally Mintzer. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

“Thats’ the same with Oliveya,” O’Carroll added. “She’s got amazing ball control and she’s fearless.”

Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson was impressed with the DP defene. 

"They were digging everything. They were able frustrate us with their defense," he said.

Crozier dished out 31 assists, setting all the way around in DP’s 5-1 alignment. She also had a block.

"Crozier, is like the heartbeat of our team,” O’Carroll said. “There was no doubt in mind that running a 5-1 with her tonight was the right choice because I got to have Grace on the court the entire match. She wants it, she wants mores than anyone on our team.”

For Santa Barbara, Reece Kelley and Erika Foreman each put away 12 kills and Mauceri finished with 11 after coming off the bench in the third set. The left-hander was sick and didn’t play in the first two sets 

“Chloe had a 102-degree fever earlier,”  Arneson said. 

With her sitting on the bench in sweats, the Dons’ attack suffered. 

“It was unfortunate. With Chloe out,  I feel our girls didn’t believe in each other,” Arneson said.

Dos Pueblos broke an 11-11 tie in the first set on a stuff block by Mintzer and never looked back. A serving run by McKinny and the blocking and hitting of LaGrange finished off Santa Barbara.

The Chargers continued to dominate in the second set, roaring to a 9-0 lead behind the serving of McKinny.

Mauceri got rid of the sweats and was inserted into the Santa Barbara lineup in the third set, and the match turned around.

Linnea Skinner broke a 17-17 tie with a kill from the outside and the Dons added two more points on a DP hitting error and a Skinner ace. 

Brenna Carney made a huge block for the Dons to put them up 22-21, but DP came right back on a Mires block of a Santa Barbara overset.

A kill by Foreman and a sideout by LaGrange made it 23-23 before Mauceri stepped up and finished the set, scoring on a tip and then serving  an ace.

In the fourth set, Kelley went on a three-point run and Ellie Chenoweth served an ace for a 19-14 Santa Barbara lead. Mires sided out for DP before Maurceri turned in an tremendous individual effort to ignite a six-point run to finish the set. She twice picked up balls off the block and finished the second one with a kill.

“She was kind of difference maker,” Arneson said. “She’s been the glue as far as the team aspect. She’s come through when we needed it, being there for the team and wanting to win for them. It was a very impressive effort considering she was sick.”

O’Carroll said Mauceri’s entrance threw her team off for awhile. 

“They put in No. 5 and she’s big hitter for them, and we didn’t adjust quick enough.” O’Carroll said. "I think maybe our mental game took a little hit. We weren’t able to bounce back quick enough. We compounded errors and let them go on too many streaks. 

“Finally, after the fourth set, I said: “Are we going to let one person dictate the outcome of this game.’ And the girls said, ‘No, we got this.’

“And they turned it around.”

Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos both finish the first round of league play at 1-3.

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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