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Kendall Williams Provides Spark for San Marcos in Comeback Win at Dos Pueblos

Royals rally from 2-0 deficit, win in five sets to remain tied for first place

The San Marcos volleyball team celebrates their come-from-behind five-set victory over Dos Pueblos. Click to view larger
The San Marcos volleyball team celebrates their come-from-behind five-set victory over Dos Pueblos. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

San Marcos got big performances from several players, rallied from two sets down and pulled out a wild five-set girls volleyball victory at Dos Pueblos on Tuesday night.

The 17-25, 13-25, 25-18, 25-17, 15-12 result leaves the Royals in a first-place tie in the Channel League with Ventura. The two teams, both 4-1, clash on Thursday at San Marcos.

San Marcos turned the match around with tough serving, big plays at the net by Kendall Williams, Brynn Sofro, Ellie Gamberdella and Bella Johnson and the back-row defense and hustle of libero Grace Mathews and setter Taylor Hantgin.

Williams put away 11 kills, Johnson and Sofro added nine apiece and Gamberdella chipped in eight.  At the defensive end, Mathews led the way with 23 digs, Gamberdella had 16 and Hantgin, Williams and Jenna MacFarlane each picked up 11. 

“We came together as a team in the last games,” said Gamberdella, who was celebrating her 16th birthday. “Props for Kendall Williams doing that. She really held us together and kept the energy really well.”

Kendall Williams of San Marcos tips a ball during the Royals’ five-set win over Dos Pueblos. Click to view larger
Kendall Williams of San Marcos tips a ball during the Royals’ five-set win over Dos Pueblos.  (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Williams came off the bench early in the match and provided a huge lift with her all-around play.

“The resilience and consistency of Kendall Williams… she was the player of the game for us, for sure,” said San Marcos co-coach Dwayne Hauschild. “That kid had a career game.”

San Marcos ability to score points on tips proved to be a key factor in the match,

“We started to tip more because we saw it was open and it was getting us more points, “ said Gamberdella.

“That is kind of a weakness in our defense,” DP coach Megan O’Carroll said. “There are a lot of open shots. Normally, when we’re on our toes and where we’re supposed to be and girls are doing their job, we can get those balls; we’re diving for them, running them down, anticipating. 

“But all those things broke down for us. Those are some of our shining qualities and if we don’t have those qualities everything else breaks down. Our middles became a little less dominant, a little less existent in the last three sets because we couldn’t get a pass.”

A Williams kill for a side out and an ace by Mathews ignited  a 9-1 run in the third set to give the Royals a 12-4 lead. Hantgin had two service aces during the run.

Dos Pueblos (2-4 in league) regained its mojo early in the fourth set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead behind the hitting and blocking of Ally Mintzer, who led the Chargers with 21 kills and seven blocks.

Three kills by Williams and one by Gamberdella brought the Royals back to 6-6.

The lead went back and forth, with points coming in a variety of ways.  At 14-13, Sofro kicked the ball over the net for a kill. She tied the score at 15-all with a block that DP was unable to make a play on.  Williams followed with a kill to give the Royals the lead for good. She served  five more points, capping the run with an ace for a 21-15 advantage.

A fantastic dig by Mathews led to a Johnson kill of an overpass for the 24th point and Gamberdella served an ace to pull the Royals even at 2-2 in sets.

A tough serve by Grace Crozier and a terrific dig by libero Alison Minnich sparked Dos Pueblos to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set. 

But San Marcos bounced back as middle Kristine Fimlaid scored four straight points before Mintzer sided out for DP.

"They kept bringing balls back, so you have to dig," said Hauschild of the San Marcos defense.

Ally Mintzer of Dos Pueblos hits past San Marcos blocker Ellie Gamberdella during Tuesday night’s Channel League match. Click to view larger
Ally Mintzer of Dos Pueblos hits past San Marcos blocker Ellie Gamberdella during Tuesday night’s Channel League match. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

After a Johnson tip tied the score at 5-5, Sofro crushed an overpass off of a Mathews serve and Mathews followed with an ace to give San Marcos a 7-5 lead.

The Chargers, who last week fought off a comeback by Santa Barbara to win in five sets, went on a 5-1 run to take a 10-9 lead. The one point by San Marcos was scored on a diving, one-handed up Hantgin.

Danielle La Grange crushed a ball for a DP side-out, but MacFarlane answered back for San Marcos to knot the score at 10-10.

AJ Huerta-Leipner came in to serve for the Royals and she delivered as the Chargers were unable to make a play on her serve.

"All the girls who came in to serve, served on point in the third and fourth sets, and that was helpful,"  Hauschild said.

Gamberdella followed with a kill, and DP hit a ball wide, allowing the Royals to take a 13-10 advantage.

La Grange sided out and Becky McKinny scored on a shot into the deep corner, pulling the Chargers to within one at 13-12.

But DP never got the ball back. Gamberdella found another hole in the defense and scored the 14th point on a tip and MacFarlane ripped a ball the Chargers couldn’t dig for match point.

MacFarlane was the Royals’ kill leader with 13.

After Mintzer, La Grange recorded 15 kills and three blocks and outside hitter Katelyn Mires added six kills and five blocks for DP. Crozier finished with 39 assists and 10 digs, Minnich picked up 22 digs and McKinny had 19. 

In the first two sets, Mintzer was nearly unstoppable for DP, as she and Crozier combined on several kills.

“Honestly, DP played phenomenal in Games 1 and 2,” Hauschild said. “There’s no other way to say it: they embarrassed us. That was hard to watch. I’m sure for the parents and fans of our team it wasn’t pretty.”

What saved the Royals, he noted, was the team’s passing. 

“Thank God our serve receive was consistent and gave us a chance to use some offense, use some middle and be able to keep the ball in play and hopefully win some of those long rallies.”

On the other side of the net, Dos Pueblos seemed to lose its edge after the second set.

“We had the momentum the first two sets and then I don’t know what happened,” O’Carroll said. “I think we got complacent and comfortable and just let off the gas and opened the door for them to pick out our weaknesses and go on runs. We just didn’t recover.”

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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