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San Marcos’ Spread Offense Takes Out Dos Pueblos in Straight Sets

Royals get strong play from middles Kristine Fimlaid, Brynn Sofro in Channel League crossstown match

San Marcos blockers Brynn Sofro, left, and Jenna MacFarlane combine to stop an attack by Mikayla Butzke of Dos Pueblos. Click to view larger
San Marcos blockers Brynn Sofro, left, and Jenna MacFarlane combine to stop an attack by Mikayla Butzke of Dos Pueblos.  (JC Corlss / Noozhawk phto)

San Marcos ran a volleyball version of the spread offense on Tuesday night and the attacks from all over the court were too much for visiting Dos Pueblos to handle, as the Royals won the Channel League crosstown match in a sweep, 25-19, 25-16, 25-23,  at the Thunderhut.

Middles Kristine Fimlaid and Brynn Sofro combined for 14 kills, Sierra Palladino had six, Bella Johnson five, Jenna MacFarlane four and Leila Parker added three kills. 

“It was really nice knowing I could set anywhere and get a decent outcome, said San Marcos setter Ellie Gamberdella, who added four points on dumps.

San Marcos co-coach Tina Brown was especially delighted with the production from the middles. 

“Our middles were awesome,” she raved. “Kristine Fimlaid has shown up and played awesome tonight. She had 3-4 blocks and Brynn Sofro had five blocks. They kind of carried our team, to be honest. 

The spread attack meant the Royals didn’t have to rely so much of MacFarlane, “who usually gets a slew of kills,” said Brown.

Gamberdella was excited to see the middles score points. They not only were effective hitting the short sets in the middle but also on the slides to the outside

On Fimlaid, the setter said: “She was hitting so well it was fun to see.”

Of Sofro’s play, Gamberdella said: “We have a good connection going. She’s very reliable.”

Jenna MacFarlane of San Marcos blocks the hit of Katelyn Mires of Dos Pueblos during Tuesday’s Channel League match. Click to view larger
Jenna MacFarlane of San Marcos blocks the hit of Katelyn Mires of Dos Pueblos during Tuesday’s Channel League match. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The Royals (12-7, 1-0) also blocked well against Dos Pueblos’ tall middles Danielle LaGrange and Ally Mintzer. LaGrange led the Chargers with eight kills.

“Our right side blocker, Leila, and Ellie and Bella did a great job of stepping in and help stop that. And our off-blocker started to pick up the tip,” said Brown.

“We’ve been working a lot on our blocking and it really paid off tonight,” said Gamberdella. “I definitely think we can be better but it was really good improvement.”

Dos Pueblos coach Megan O’Carroll, coaching in her first varsity crosstown match, said her team struggled with the block.

“We’ve been working a lot on disciplined blocking and making sure we get our feet set and pressing over,” she said. “We were doing that decently tonight but we still got caught a couple of times — still in motion, not having feet set, not pressing over — and they were using our block. It’s really hard if our block is not set for our defense to do their job.”

The 6-foot-4 LaGrange was scoring points early in the match, but DP had trouble getting sets to here in the later stages. 

“We try to run our middles as much as possible. Unfortunately, our defense and passing wasn’t perfect, so we weren’t able to run a lot of quick balls and we weren’t able to go through like we like to,” explained O’Carroll.

San Marcos took control of the match after Brown called a time out midway through the first set. 

“Part of our deal was we played a little bit of pattycake back and fourth (in the first set),” Brown said. “That’s why I called a time out at 10-all.

"I said: ‘This is not who we are.’ We played so well at the (Camarillo) tournament and were attacking, everybody was attacking. I said, ‘Let’s get this picked up. This is not our team. We need to change our energy, our focus and start attacking a little bit more.’  Our strategy right now is to work and it felt like they weren’t working that hard.”

O’Carroll felt the difference in the first set was the energy San Marcos brought to the court after the timeout.

"They were fired up. Tina had them fired up on the sidelines and on the court. They had the energy and we had to play catch-up,” she said.

The Royals closed out the first set convincingly and pulled away in the second, outscoring DP 10-3 to take a 21-12 lead. Fimlaid started the run with a kill from the middle, Kendall Williams hit two balls off Charger blocks, Sofro recorded a couple of stuff blocks and MacFarlane ripped a kill that was set up by a Sofro-MacFarlane soft block. 

“I give kudos to their outside hitters, who just went up for swings and kept the ball in play and put pressure on us to do something,” said Brown of the Chargers.

Katelyn Mires and Olivia Andrews provided the bulk of the outside hitting for DP and recorded six kills apiece.

Andrews scored on a dink shot and Mintzer delivered a kill in the middle to give DP a 17-15 lead in the third set. But San Marcos battled back and tied the score at 18.

There were five ties down the stretch until Sofro tooled the Charger block for a 24-23 lead. 

The Royals scored match point on a tough serve by Kelsey Warren.

The loss was the second in league play for DP (9-8 overall).

“I think we played well and hung with them,” O’Carroll said. “I just want us to get the confidence and belief that we can beat teams like this, that we’re a good high-level team and we can compete against these teams and can eventually beat them.

“Hopefully, this one will sting a little bit and they’ll remember it when San Marcos comes to our home.”

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.

Leila Parker of San Marcos hits between Dos Pueblos blockers Becky McKinny, left, and Ally Mintzer. Click to view larger
Leila Parker of San Marcos hits between Dos Pueblos blockers Becky McKinny, left, and Ally Mintzer. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)
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