Campbell Brown and Shae Delany
Santa Barbara’s Campbell Brown (10) and Shae Delany block Cate’s Gigi Geyer during a CIF-SS Division 6 volleyball playoff match at J.R. Richards Gym. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Unable to hold a senior night because its regular-season finale last week was canceled because of the Alisal Fire, the Santa Barbara High School girls volleyball team rescheduled the special occasion for the CIF-SS playoff opener Thursday.

The Dons honored their 10 seniors with flowers, gifts and tributes from their underclass teammates in a pre-match ceremony and kept the celebration going with a 25-18, 25-12, 25-15 sweep of Cate School in a Division 6 first-round match at J.R. Richards Gym.

Top-seeded Santa Barbara (16-3) used a balanced attack, strong net play from senior middle Campbell Brown and tough serving to dominate the match against the Tri-Valley League co champions.

“We had 10 seniors, so the ceremony took a little longer than it typically would, but they were able to focus up after that,” Santa Barbara coach Kristin Hempy said. “I think after having two weeks off, they were just like really ready to get after it.”

Emma Zuffelato rips a kill down the line in Santa Barbara’s CIF Div. 6 volleyball first-round playoff win over Cate.

— NoozhawkSports (@NoozhawkSports) October 22, 2021

Hempy added that Cate coach Jordon Dyer said he was OK with the senior night pregame ceremony.

Cate fell behind early in the first two sets. The Rams took a 5-3 in the third, but then got outscored 17-4.

Junior Gracie Meinzer had a big night for Santa Barbara. She put away seven kills, had five digs and dished out 17 assists when she played setter out of the back row.

“We switched up parts of our lineup kind of halfway through the season and ended up giving her more time on the court,” Hempy said. “She’s really grown a lot, both setting and hitting opposite, so it’s been fun to see her produce.”

Meinzer had a couple of kills to help the Dons take a 14-8 lead in the first set and finished the set with a pair of kills.

Junior Annie Knecht handled the setting duties when Meinzer was at the net and dished out 15 assists to go with eight digs.

Senior Emma Zuffelato led Santa Barbara’s balanced attack with nine kills, junior Shae Delany added seven kills and Brown put away four to go with her six blocks, including four solos. She also had three service aces.

Mary Johnson

Mary Johnson of Santa Barbara hits down the line against Cate’s Elise Guerrard-Hermes. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara’s serving took Cate out of system most of the night.

“We focused on that a lot this week because we did have so many practices to prepare with our last league game getting canceled,” Hempy said. “We did a lot of services because we know that would be crucial going into any CIF game, but this one for sure.”

Outside hitter Elise Guerrarrd-Hermes and middle Chidera Chukwumerije led Cate with five kills apiece. Eve Kaplan had 18 digs.

Dyer said finishing as a co-champion with St. Bonaventure in the Tri-Valley League impacted their playoff draw.

“That was a tough one to get in the first round,” Dyer said about drawing the top-seeded Dons. “If we had won the Tri-Valley League outright, we wouldn’t have been playing Santa Barbara in the first round, so it kind of bit us in the butt.

“We had a big hill to climb, which we weren’t able to do tonight.”

Santa Barbara travels to Riverside Poly for a second-round match on Saturday.

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Campbell Brown of Santa Barbara High terminates a rally with a solo block in the Dons’ 3-0 victory over Cate in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 6 volleyball playoffs.

— NoozhawkSports (@NoozhawkSports) October 22, 2021

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Barry Punzal, Noozhawk Sports Editor

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.