It was a new day and a new Santa Barbara High girls volleyball team.
The Dons players were the same, but the way they performed in a tense four-set win over Dos Pueblos on Thursday night was a far cry from their lackluster performance in a loss against San Marcos two nights earlier at J.R. Richards
Santa Barbara showed grit, intensity and fight in pulling out a 25-23, 21-25 25-23, 25-23 victory in the Channel League match. The Dons came from behind late in each set they won, with the third-set comeback being the most stunning. They were down 23-17 before Linnea Skinner went on an eight-point service run.
Besides Skinner’s serves being tough to handle, Santa Barbara made some big plays during the run. Erika Foreman and Brenna Carney blocked for the 22nd point and Claire Baker scored the 23rd point on a tip. A bad pass gave the Dons their 24th point and a DP dig off the ceiling on the Santa Barbara side finished the set.
The Dons were down 23-22 in the fourth set when Chloe Mauceri scored on a tip for the tie. Carney blocked for the lead and Ellie Chenoweth completed a solo block for the match win.
“We had some good talks yesterday before practice and after practice and the girls really responded,” said Santa Barbara coach John Gannon, whose team improved to 2-1 in league and 3-9 overall. “We knew we could play better and we really felt like we owed it to ourselves. We said no one else. We owe it to ourselves to make sure that we prove to ourselves that we can play better volleyball.
“We stuck together as a team, and that was really good,” he added. “If you look at all the sets we won, they were all 25-23. That’s a team that’s sticking together at the end and focusing and playing for each other. It was great. That was awesome.”
Gannon said he was already thinking about strategy in the fourth set before Skinner went on her tremendous serving run to end the third.
“When Linnea got that serve going, they got a little rattled. It was good for us to take that momentum and seize that momentum.”
It was surprising that Dos Pueblos coach Dillan Bennett didn’t call a timeout during Santa Barbara’s run.
Asked about it after the match, Bennett said: “Honestly, were in a very good rotation. I don’t use timeouts to ice their best server. Linnea is going to serve that ball in whether I call time out or the building falls down … Linnea Skinner is not going to miss that serve. I’m one who doesn’t like to use timeouts. Our team needs to learn under pressure what we need to do to win. And, unfortunately, tonight we didn’t do that.”
Bennett expressed his displeasure with a few calls he felt were missed by the officials down the stretch in games two and three, but he credited Santa Barbara for playing a good match.
“It’s just a learning experience for our young girls,” he said. “We’ve got four freshman and sophomores out there on the court and our seniors did the best they could. At the end of the day, we just did not execute our game plan against Santa Barbara, and they played an awesome match.”
Dos Pueblos fell to 1-2 in Channel League and 10-8 overall.
Dos Pueblos libero Alison Minnich played a standout match. The sophomore passed well and picked up 24 digs.
Her sister, senior Danica Minnich, recorded a double-double with 12 kills and 14 digs. Danielle LaGrange, the Chargers’ 6-foot-3 freshman middle, had 13 kills and sophomore middle Ally Mintzer added 11 kills. Jackie Holmes contributed 11 digs.
Megan Seabury played tremendous at libero for the Dons. She picked up 26 digs, scrambled to keep balls alive after blocks and raced forward to pick up short serves from the Chargers.
“It was the best match of the season by far for her,” Gannon said. “Megan is a huge difference maker. Where she really helped us was at service receive and defense. They served us short, which gave us some trouble. We adjusted and started picking them up and making good passes.”
The Santa Barbara attack was balanced with Mauceri leading the team with 13 kills, Foreman adding 10 and Skinner 7.
Gannon was happy to see Mauceri and play well and “bounce back from really tough match the other day. I’m really proud of her and the girls. Everyone bounced back.”