There’s a sports expression that goes: “They left it all on the court.”
The girls volleyball teams from San Marcos and Dos Pueblos did just that in an epic Channel League match Thursday night at a rocking Sovine Gym. The Goleta Valley rivals fired their best shots at each other for five intense sets. When the final ball hit the ground, it was San Marcos doing the celebrating.
The Royals prevailed, 25-23, 25-23, 19-25, 18-25, 15-13, to sweep the regular season series from the Chargers and move into a first-place tie in the league standings. Both teams are 3-2.
San Marcos won without its head coach. Erica Downing was unable to attend the match because she suffered a strained neck while practicing with the team on Wednesday. Assistants Tina Brown and Dwayne Hauschild guided the Royals. They know what it takes to win in the DP gym; they coached Dos Pueblos to a league title and the CIF finals in 2008.
“We’re kind of used to this gym,” said Brown with a smile. “We have a little familiarity.”
Emily Allen led a balanced San Marcos attack with 15 kills. Kristen Berlo and Katie Kim each posted 11 kils and Anastasia Kunz added eight.
Libero Anika Wilson played a spectacular defensive match, picking up 35 digs, and setter Andie O’Donnell was darting and diving all over the court to make plays.
Sophomore Natalie Klapp was a thunderklapp hitting the ball for the Chargers. She hammered 23 kills, helping to rally her team from an 0-2 deficit in sets. Colleen O’Connor added 10 kills and Teah Burdick put down nine spikes. Setter Maddie Leiphardt played brilliantly, dealing out 44 assists.
This match was electric from the start. Both teams slugged away at each other and scrambled all over to keep the ball from hitting the floor.
The first two sets could have gone either way, but San Marcos managed to come up with big plays down the stretch to pull out the victories.
“In the first two games, our girls really stayed focused and worked on point after point after point,” Brown said. “Toward the end of the games, the girls hunkered down.”
In the first set, a tough serve by O’Donnell opened up a 24-22 advantage. Leiphardt sided out for the Chargers, but the Royals would get the winning point on a play by Kim. After getting dug, Kim answered with a solo block for the win.
The hitting of sisters Emily and Chloe Allen sparked the Royals to a 20-17 advantage in the second set. Dos Pueblos, however, fought back and tied the score at 21. San Marcos would seize the momentum for the final points, with Kristen Berlo putting the ball away for the set winner.
At that point, it appeared the Royals might sweep their rivals for the second time. But Dos Pueblos would have none of that, not in its gym. Tough serving and the power hitting of Klapp enabled the Chargers to break a 7-7 tie and open up a 21-12 lead. San Marcos made a late run, but Klapp put the third set away with a couple of kills.
“She was bombing balls,” said Brown of Klapp.
“Natalie stepped up tonight bigtime,” said DP coach Todd Garrett. “I’m proud of her, I’m proud of all the girls.”
With a win under its belt, Dos Pueblos took momentum into the fourth set, but it still couldn’t shake the Royals. The turning point of the set was a solo block by Leiphardt that capped a three-point run to give DP a 17-13 lead. It expanded to 22-16 on a triple block against Berlo in the middle.
That set up a wild fifth set. The score was tied a 11-11 when DP committed consecutive hitting errors to give San Marcos a two-point lead in the 15-point set. Sam Rhine got a huge side out for the Chargers and Emily Lunt followed with an ace to knot the score at 13-all.
Then came the point of the match. Bodies were flying all over the court to keep the ball in play until San Marcos’ Carly Yarnell put it down.
“We competed tonight starting in game three,” said Garrett. “We finished strong and I’m real proud how they finished. I told them in that 13-13 point, we lost it but if we play like that every point we won’t lose another game. That 13-13 rally we groveled, we were on the ground, bodies flying everywhere … that was really fun volleyball at the end. We just started out really slow. It’s super hard to win three in a row against a good team.”
Anastasia Kunz of the Royals finished the gut-wrenching match with a kill.