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Dons beat Monarchs in another CIF 5-setter

The fifth set has become very familiar territory for the Dons this week.

After beating Los Alamitos in five sets on Tuesday, the Santa Barbara High boys volleyball team went to a fifth set again at J.R. Richards on Thursday, this time defeating Mater Dei 25-14, 35-33, 20-25, 23-25, 15-12.

Holden Ploch had 19 kills on the night and hit for a .500 average in the middle while Ben Reisman added 14 in just his second start of the season, replacing the injured Casey Slaught.

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“We went into that third set knowing that they were going to fight back, because they’re a good team and they certainly don’t want to get swept,” said senior setter Gavin Trudeau, who dished out a whopping 76 assists.

The Monarchs could have easily folded after failing to convert seven game-point attempts at the end of the second set. The last chance came with the score in their favor at 33-32, but Santa Barbara’s Nick Clark nabbed a kill from the right side to tie it up. A Monarch hitting error gave the Dons game point, and Sam Cohen put one away from the middle to take the frame.

“They showed some heart, showed some fight and showed some courage, just not enough to get us through five,” said coach Adam Cutrell of his squad.

Tucker Pikula led the Monarchs (19-6) with 14 kills while UCLA-bound opposite hitter John Zappia added 13 and Sean Finck shoveled up 15 digs.

Mater Dei broke a 10-10 tie in the third and never looked back, stretching the lead out to as big six points before Zappia blasted a kill from the right side to end the game. Mike Such put down an overpass early in the third that put the visitors up 7-2 to start the fourth, and an ace by Pikula a few minutes later put them up 14-7. The Dons (21-7) would storm back, however, pulling within one at 24-23 thanks to a net violation by Mater Dei. The ensuing Dons serve went long, however, and both squads geared up for a fifth and deciding set.

The Dons lost the first two points of the fifth, but the Monarchs missed a serve and Santa Barbara tied it up on a massive roof block of Zappia by sophomore Tristin Fauntleroy and Cohen. The duo combined for another huge block to put the hosts up 5-2, with Fauntleroy stomping around the court and pounding his chest in celebration.

“I hadn’t done much earlier in the match, so it was great to go up and get those blocks,” said Fauntleroy, who noted that being emotional has been a double-edged sword on the court so far in his young career.

“Recently I haven’t been as emotional because I was getting yelled at for it by a lot of people, but I show it sometimes I guess,” said the youngster.

Mater Dei’s Matt Lopez tied it up at 5-5 with a kill in the middle, but Santa Barbara took another 3-point lead at 8-5 on a block by Ploch and Reisman. Mater Dei refused to go away though, tying it up at 9-9 and forcing Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson to call a timeout.

“I just told them that our bread-and-butter is our passing and our serve receive, and if we get a good pass we can run all three hitters,” said Arneson. “We were able to establish our middles.”

A dump by Trudeau gave Santa Barbara a 10-9 lead out of the timeout and the hosts held on, ending it on a sideout when Cohen put away a kill from the middle.

“We definitely know what it’s like to win these 5-set games and know that we can pull them out,” said Trudeau.

Santa Barbara will play at Century League-champion Esperanza on Saturday.