The Santa Barbara High boys volleyball team handled its business Tuesday night on the road, sweeping crosstown rival Dos Pueblos with set scores of 25-22, 25-14, 25-16 at Sovine Gym to secure a co-Channel League championship.
With the win, Santa Barbara finishes Channel League play with a 7-1 mark, the same record as other crosstown rival San Marcos, meaning both serve as co-Channel League champs after the teams split their season matchups. The Dons are 18-8-1 overall.
“It’s an honor to be Channel League champs,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson told Noozhawk after the game.
“We knew the target was on our back this year, we knew San Marcos was going to give our guys a tough run, but it’s a team effort. … It’s a great accomplishment and the guys can say they were co-Channel League champs, and now we’re looking forward to see what our fate is in the playoffs coming up.”
Dos Pueblos finishes the Channel League season 4-4 and secures a bid to the postseason by finishing in third place. The Chargers sport an overall record of 14-8-1.
Alex Rottman was once again spectacular for the Dons on Tuesday, registering 18 kills and serving well the entire match, consistently making it easier for his teammates to get the kills off a wasted Dos Pueblos possession.
Rottman also finished with four aces.
“My serve is definitely something I pay more attention to lately — I definitely need it for the collegiate level,” Rottman, who is committed to playing at Stanford, said.
“So I’m definitely trying to get more power behind it and just more consistency.”
In fact, Santa Barbara’s whole lineup served well Tuesday night, with multiple players registering aces. In the second set, Andrea Schuetz three consecutive aces to secure the 25-14 set win for the team.
He would finish with four aces and nine kills overall in the contest. Mason Rice added another nine kills to round out the Dons’ scoring effort.
“We served a lot better today. I think when there’s less pressure, that always helps, but I gotta give the kids credit,” Arneson said.
“When we can get our team jump serving well, then we become a tougher team to play against because then they’re out of system,” he added. “So it’s definitely a luxury to have. It hasn’t been consistent, but this is the good time to get it going before playoffs start.”
The first set was a back-and-forth contest with the home-team Chargers leading for the majority of the frame.Tied at 6-6, DP earned three consecutive points and led until 16-16, when a kill from Schuetz gave the momentum back to the Dons.
Both teams continued trading points, eventually tying at 20-all, but costly service errors and lane violations ultimately led to the Chargers’ loss in the first set, as Rottman put it away with a kill.
DP struggled with the serve, as the team committed seven service errors.
The Chargers never recaptured that same momentum they had in the first set, falling behind 10-5 in the second set and 10-4 in the third set, ultimately leading to those set wins for the visiting Dons.
“It’s tough to swallow as your rivals are cramming it down your throat, especially from the service line,” DP coach Ehren Hug said, “but I was pleased with the way we passed tonight and just the overall demeanor of them that I thought they were really gelling as a team.”
Both Santa Barbara and San Marcos will enter the playoffs in a higher division than the Chargers, who will be in Division 3.
Hug said the experience and “strong blessing of a great volleyball culture” in Santa Barbara will be a big key for them going forward in the postseason.
“It’s so exciting that this town keeps sending guys to sick D1 programs like Stanford,” Hug said.
“And I thought our guys played well, and I told them I don’t know if they’re gonna see a team that serves like this again for the rest of the season.
“This year we have been continually chugging uphill with improvements and improving our volleyball IQ and getting better. So it’s really encouraging to be neck-and-neck with a team like Santa Barbara in that first set, and I know the guys have a little more belief in themselves after running up against a good competitive team like that.”
For Santa Barbara, Arneson said there’s a bit of “anxiety” as the team waits to see who they face, but he is excited to see his team have a chance to try to repeat as CIF champs. The Dons won the CIF-SS Division 2 title last year.
“Wherever they put us, we’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna fight and give it our all,” Hug said.
Rottman, a senior, said he is looking forward to his final CIF run as well.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Rottman said. “We’re coming into a strong team shot for this game and I think our chemistry was built back up, so I think we got a good shot.”