The San Marcos student section wore hardhats and construction worker vests for Thursday night’s first-place Channel League girls volleyball showdown with Dos Pueblos.
It was fitting because the Royals got a good night’s work from everyone on the court in sweeping the Chargers, 25-20, 25-23, 25-16, at the Thunderhut.
The result leaves San Marcos tied with Santa Barbara at the top of the standings at 6-1 at the completion of the first round of league play. Dos Pueblos stands in third at 5-2 while Oxnard, which plays Pacifica on Friday, is 4-2.
Sophomore setter Josie Gamberdella was like the job foreman for San Marcos. She spread the ball to all of her hitters, contributed as a blocker and was tough from the service line. She had 35 assists and four aces on the night.
“Sometimes we forget that she’s only a sophomore because we expect a lot out of her, but she really has stepped up,” said co-coach Tina Brown. “She’s calm. We try to kind of give her guidance on where to set, but she makes her choices and she’s done really well with that.”
She has a lot of choices as San Marcos rotates several players in the front row. Fellow sophomore Elena Thomas is her go-to hitter on the outside.
Thomas put away a match-high 16 kills and had a hitting average of .382.
“Every time I give her the ball I trust that she can put it away every time,” said Gamberdella.
She felt like everything clicked for Royals in the crosstown match.
“It definitely did. We definitely all came together as a team and it was a great game.”
The Royals played terrific defense against the Chargers.
Katie Kracke, Mia Miller and libero Lily Blankenhorn picked up several driven balls and made acrobatic dives to pick up tips and hits off the block.
“We had way more communication. They were all connecting in the back and it made it so great, way easier (to transition to offense).”
Brown praised the play of Miller and Kracke, who came up big in the second and third sets.
“Mia Miller and Katie Kracke came in and just calmed down our passing,” said Brown. “Once we establish our passing, we have weapons… we’re good. That was a big, big factor.”
Devyn Brunet was one of those weapons. She came off the bench and provided added punch in the middle. Brunet (3) and Eloise McGibben (5) combined for eight kills.
“She popped a couple of balls with some heat from the middle which gives our outside that opportunity to get a little more of an opening,” Brown said of Brunet. “If we establish that middle with Devyn and Eloise, our outsides get an opportunity to take some pretty good swings.
“And Elena has been on fire for us.”
Riley Green had five kills and Kate Edgar added four for San Marcos.
The teams traded scoring runs in the first set. San Marcos put together the clinching run after a Hoffman kill pulled DP to within one, 21-20.
The Royals sided out on net violation by the Chargers and went up 23-20 on a bad pass of a Thomas serve. Riley Green scored on an off-speed hit and the game-winning point came on a DP hitting error.
“It was a disappointing night for us,” DP coach Megan O’Carroll said. “We had a really great practice yesterday, it was super focused, super competitive. I was feeling really good about where we were as a team in terms of we’re all on the same page and we had a great game plan.
“Then it just kind of felt like the lights were a little too bright. The stage was little too big tonight and we struggled to step up to the occasion.”
Hoffman led DP with 10 kills and three blocks, Makeila Cervantes had eight kills and freshman middle Addison Low added six kills and a pair of blocks. Setter Halle Rillie dished out 24 assists, Jayden Jones picked up 15 digs and served three aces and Malia Brofferio had 10 digs.
The Chargers appeared to be in good shape to win the second set as they took a 22-19 lead. But Thomas went off for San Marcos to tie the score. She sided out, came back with a kill off the block and converted a great dig by Kracke into the tying point off a tip.
Gamberdella and Brunet then combined on a block for a 23-22 San Marcos lead.
Dos Pueblos had a chance to side out after digging a San Marcos attack, but two Chargers collided while going for the second ball and couldn’t a make play.
“It’s hard to win a game when you’re giving away free points,” said O’Carroll.
San Marcos blockers got their hands on a Cervantes hit, Miller picked up the ball and Gamberdella fed Thomas for the winning point and a 2-0 lead in sets.
In the third set, San Marcos served five aces, two in row by Gamberdella, to break the set open after the teams were tied 8-8.