It wasn’t just winning the USA Volleyball Junior Nationals Qualifier that impressed David Rottman, coach of the Santa Barbara Coast Volleyball Club 14s boys team. It was how his young players responded to challenges and competed at a high level throughout the tournament.
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“This group of boys has bought into the competing-and-not-folding aspect of what I’m trying to teach,” Rottman said. “I still can’t believe what they did that weekend.”
Santa Barbara Coast went 8-1 and knocked off top-seeded Balboa Bay Club in a three-set championship match to earn a trip to the USA Junior Nationals in Columbus, Ohio in July.
Presidio Sports is pleased to recognize the Santa Barbara Coast Volleyball Club boys 14s as its Team of the Month.
Rottman, who was an All-American outside hitter at UCSB in 1987-88 and led the Gauchos to the NCAA finals in ’88, got a hint before the qualifier that his club team could do something special. In the Southern California Volleyball Club’s Holiday Classic three weeks prior, SB Coast advanced to the final, falling against Manhattan Beach.
“We overachieved in that tournament,” he said. “We were scratching our heads, saying, ‘Hey, our boys competed.’ We were ecstatic with that.”
The confidence the SB Coast 14s gained at the Holiday Classic carried over to the qualifier.
“They beat all these clubs that were supposed to spank them,” said Rottman, referring to teams like the Southern California Volleyball Club and Santa Monica VC. “They just wouldn’t die.”
In the final, SB Coast played liked they belonged there.
“I was thinking the kids might just be happy to be here,” Rottman said. “But we had a conversation, saying, ‘Hey, let’s not just be happy to be here.’ Then we go out and play Balboa. They’re much taller than us, they play excellent defense, run the middle, have a great setter and two kids who absolutely bury the ball inside the 10-foot line when they swing. We got out to a good start and we were competing. We had a mini meltdown and lost the first set, 25-23.”
His words of wisdom before the second set: ” ‘Guys, just compete.’ And they came out and competed and competed. Even when we had a little downturn, they would not let it expand into major damage. They showed mental toughness.”
SB Coast won the set 25-22, setting up a 15-point third set for the trip to the nationals.
The team jumped out to a 5-0 start, frustrated Balboa Bay and won the set 15-8.
“After game 2, I said, ‘Guys, if you hold the line, no matter how good Balboa is they will feel the pressure and they will collapse,’ Rottman said. “We got out to a 5-0 start and, it was obvious, they started collapsing. Balboa didn’t even look like themselves, they couldn’t pass a ball, they couldn’t set a ball. And the lesson was learned: If you stay on a team, regardless how good they are, they eventually crack under pressure. It was wonderful.”
Rottman said he was surprised by the mental strength and stamina his young players showed against the tough teams. “It was an absolutely amazing.”
The SB Coast 14s were one of the youngest teams in the tournament playoffs. Its two advanced players, Matt Suh and Will Rottman (the coach’s son), are 12 and 13, respectively.
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“Matt Suh is a phenomenal libero,” Rottman raved. “He’s been playing with older players with some of the other clubs in town since he was 9. He just has this incredible experience factor. He is not only a good defender and is good at the game, he loves it more than anything. And, he’s an absolute solid platform passer.”
Will Rottman is the offensive leader of the team. He’s been playing club volleyball for three years and on the beach for four.
“And he’s been peppering with me since he was 2 years old,” said his dad, who is one of all-time kill leaders in UCSB volleyball history. “He’s got a very big competitive spirit and is very, very determined and strong.”
Coach Rottman said his son is also a solid passer.
“So we have this incredible ball control on this team that, frankly, rivals 16-year-old clubs,” he said. “There’s nothing these guys can’t pass. It’s amazing. And they do it with the old-school style platform.”
Another skillful player is setter Tanner Stevens.
“His father, Bruce Stevens (the CFO and Montecito Bank & Trust), was a setter at Santa Barbara High. (Tanner) has volleyball acumen,” said Rottman.
Theo Mack is the starting opposite, Charlie MacNeil plays at outside hitter and Brennan Ware and Brendan Hann are the middles.
Kyle Aitcheson, Arman Banan, Owen Jones, Joakim Moe, Samuel Stegall and Toby Still round out the roster.