The San Marcos girls volleyball team celebrates after knocking off Ventura in four sets to reach the semifinals of the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions. (Melinda Werner photo)

In a spirited performance, the San Marcos girls volleyball team won two matches Friday and advanced to the semifinals of the 12-team Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions.

The Royals played well in all phases in beating Rosary Academy and Ventura to book a spot in the Saturday 10:45 a.m. semifinals against second-seeded Newport Harbor at J.R. Richards Gym.

In the other 10:45 semifinal, top-seeded Buchanan takes on Hart.  

The winners play for the championship at 4 p.m.

Hart, behind the heavy hitting of Madi Maxwell, defeated host Santa Barbara, 25-22, 25-23, 24-26, 25-21, to reach the semifinals. Buchanan swept Chandler, Arizona’s Basha High, 25-20, 25-13, 25-18.

Newport Harbor rallied to beat Clovis in five sets, 25-15, 25-22, 19-25, 23-25, 15-13.

The top-two seeds needed just one victory to advance.

Good defense provided the spark in San Marcos’ four-set win (25-20, 24-26, 26-24, 25-16) over Channel League-leading Ventura in the quarterfinals. 

The Royals got stellar play from back-row players Katie Kracke, Charlotte Hastings and Alina Stapf to frustrate Ventura. More importantly, they converted those big defensive plays into points.

In the third set, San Marcos fought off a Ventura set-point with a sideout from Kaylin Cooney. Grace Stone tied the score with a kill and Cooney finished the set, giving the Royals a 2-1 advantage.

The Royals rode the momentum to a 21-11 lead in the fourth set en route to the victory.

For coach Dwayne Hauschild, it was exciting to see his young team get over the hump and beat a strong opponent.

“We’ve been battling a lot and we’ve been on the wrong end of all these longer matches,” he said. “It’s been disappointing in some regards, but then to go out against Ventura, who we know is very good, and compete and actually get the victory was very special. You can sense that the team kind of needed that.”

He was pleased how the defense stepped up to extend plays and the attackers finished plays.

“We’re making corrections and people are contributing,” said Hauschild. “Gianna Mandarino, we put her in to serve and not only does she serve but she goes and digs a couple of balls. And you’re like, ‘She’s doing more than we needed.’”

The coach also liked how his hitters cut down on unforced errors and kept the ball in the court.

Nicole Schuetz rips the ball past La Jolla’s middle blocker during Santa Barbara’s three-set win in the first round. (Lily Chubb / Noozhawk photo)

“It comes down to can you keep the ball in play and let the other team screw it up. Frankly, we really had to work on this one against Ventura. They didn’t make a ton of errors. We had to earn a lot of points.

“But our service game kept us ahead, so I think we were a little more comfortable.”

The Royals started the tournament with a 25-19, 25-13, 25-18 sweep over Rosary Academy of Fullerton.

Santa Barbara opened with a 26-24, 23-25, 25-16, 25-17 win over La Jolla before losing in four against a Hart team that is ranked seventh in CIF-SS Division 3.

The loss drops the Dons into a fifth-place match against Channel League foe Ventura at 9 a.m.

Also at 9, Rosary plays Arroyo Grande for 11th place. At 12:30 p.m., Basha plays La Jolla and Yorba Linda faces Clovis in the consolation semifinals.

The third- and ninth-place games are at 2:15 p.m., and the consolation and championship matches are at 4 p.m.

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