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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 6:57 am | Fair 53º

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Boys Volleyball

Santa Barbara Falls in 5 Sets Against CIF Division 1 Power Mira Costa

Santa Barbara High’s Will Rottman smashes a spike past the Mira Costa block. Rottman had 20 kills. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara High’s Will Rottman smashes a spike past the Mira Costa block. Rottman had 20 kills. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara High is taking a rugged road in its boys volleyball pre-league schedule. The Dons played Newbury Park and Loyola on the road in their first two matches and opened their home slate against Mira Costa on Tuesday night at J.R. Richards Gym.

They went toe-to-toe with the perennial CIF-Southern Section Division 1 powerhouse before falling in five sets, 16-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-27, 15-11.

“We knew we were in Division 1 and we’re not going to sand bag it and try and play weaker teams,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson said about playing the tough schedule. “We want to play these tough non-league matches to prepare us for Channel League and for Division 1. I feel like having a tough schedule is only going to make us better in the long run.”

Dons setter Dane Westwick puts the ball up for middle Aidan Douglas Click to view larger
Dons setter Dane Westwick puts the ball up for middle Aidan Douglas (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

Sophomore outside hitter Will Rottman gave Mira Costa all it could handle, blasting 20 kills.

Ben Roach added 11 kills and Henry Hancock chipped in nine as the Dons fell to 1-2 on the young season. Setter Dane Westwick handed out 43 assists and libero Pierce Barnes picked up 25 digs in his debut.

“Our kids played hard. They battled. Not a bad way to come out for a first home match,” said Arneson, whose team is 1-2.

Mira Costa, playing its first match of the season, got a big-time performance from high-flying 6-foot-3 junior Max Cajuste. He had 22 kills, including the game-winning putaway in the tight second set, and scored the first three points in the fifth set — a kill and two aces — to spark the Mustangs to the victory.

Rottman energized Santa Barbara in the first set. His powerful hitting, blocking and serving helped the Dons open up a 17-13 lead.

“I love his emotion, the way he competes,” said Arneson. “We just got to be consistent with our emotions, make sure we have a game plan and stick to it. We can’t get too carried away, but at the same time I’ll take any player that has emotion, especially on the volleyball court.”

Setter Dane Westwick also provided some excitement. He chased down a shanked dig into the Santa Barbara bench and kept the ball alive. Hancock bumped it over and Mira Costa wound up hitting its attack into the net, giving the Dons a 19-14 advantage. 

“He does a great job in keeping those long rallies going,” said Arneson of Westwick.

Henry Hancock (18) and Aidan Douglas try to stop the attack by Mira Costa’s Bobby Barkley. Click to view larger
Henry Hancock (18) and Aidan Douglas try to stop the attack by Mira Costa’s Bobby Barkley. (Barry Punzal / Noozhawk photo)

On the next play, Roach blocked a ball off a Mustangs’ hitter for a 20-14 lead.

Santa Barbara rallied from a 21-19 deficit in the second set. A Mira Costa serving error, a kill by middle Aidan Douglas and a back-row attack violation gave the Dons a 22-21 lead. The Mustangs regained the lead at 23-22 before a Hancock kill leveled the score.

An errant Santa Barbara set that went off the antenna put Mira Costa back in front and a Cajuste kill clinched the game.

“We had a chance to go up 2-0 and ended up losing a little momentum,” said Arneson.

The Mustangs found their groove in the third set behind freshman setter Jack Walmer.

Santa Barbara regrouped in the fourth set and went back and forth with Mira Costa.

“Our kids found a way to fight back,” Arneson said. “The great thing about this group is they don’t crumble. They’ve learned to fight and deal with a little adversity. I feel like the kids did a good job.”

Westwick made a huge play at 22-22 by blocking a Mustangs’ overpass for a point. The Mustangs came back, however, on an off-speed shot by middle Ethan Morgan. At 25-25, Hancock buried a ball from the right side and Roach followed with a block on an overset, sending the match into a fifth set.

Cajuste got the Mustangs off to a great start with his three points and Bobby Barkley scored two more points on a kill and a combo block with Morgan. Lauch Farris served an ace for a commanding 6-2 lead. 

Santa Barbara pulled within one (10-9) and had an opportunity to tie the score. But the Dons couldn’t convert in transition and Cajuste made them pay. The Mustangs outscored the Dons 4-2 the rest of the way.

Next up for Santa Barbara is the Best of the West Tournament in San Diego, where they’ll face Palos Verdes, Westlake and La Jolla in pool play. The Dons, Palos Verdes and Westlake received consideration in the latest CIF Division 1 rankings.

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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