Simmons leads Dons sweep of Royals

Numbers-wise, Hadley Simmons was as dominant as Barack Obama on Tuesday night.

The Santa Barbara High senior middle blocker was given 17 sets to swing at and turned 14 of them into points as the Dons swept past San Marcos at the Thunderhut 25-15, 25-22, 25-21.

The sweep gives Santa Barbara an extra nudge of momentum heading into Thursday’s shot at redemption against Dos Pueblos, a home match which the Dons will vie for a share of the Channel League title.

“Thursday’s match is important,” said Santa Barbara coach John Gannon. “I know that’s not a very good quote, but it’s just one of those big matches.”

Gannon also praised the Royals, saying they “have gotten a lot better and showed a lot of heart” in Tuesday’s match.

The fact that San Marcos was dead-even with the second-ranked visitors at 21-21 in the second game and 20-20 in the third gives the Royals an extra smidge of confidence, and a reason to believe that they can take the playoff berth they’ve earned and turn it into a deep postseason run.

“We’ve always been that team that fights and plays really tough and then gets in a rut,” said senior setter Kristen Kuntz. “But I thought everyone played really hard today and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”

Coach Roger Kuntz agreed.

“We can go deep into CIF. We’re very capable of beating a lot of good teams and we’re also a good road team,” he said.

But the mighty Dons had the mettle and seemed able to surge and slip ahead of the Royals when most needed. They didn’t slip through unscathed, however, as senior captain Mimi Cuttrell left the match with an ankle injury in the first game. Gannon seemed optimistic about her prognosis after the match.

“It looks like an ankle sprain, but I think she’ll be okay by Thursday. I hope so, because she’s such a competitor I think it would be hard to keep her out of the game anyway,” he said.

Simmons had six kills and a block in the first set, an effort which was enough to keep the Dons well ahead most of the way. She put one down in the middle and then teamed with Emily Rottman on a block to put Santa Barbara up 19-11, and Sarah Mendoza followed with a nice run-down and dig which led to a Rottman kill and a 20-11 lead.

Sophomore Eve Ettinger put away one of her 14 kills to end the frame.

San Marcos was down 21-17 in the second, but Kuntz and Flo Chardon nabbed a block that began a four-point rally. The block was followed by another stuff — this one by Kuntz and Grace Conner — before a Lindsey Weintraub ace and a crafty tip by Kuntz knotted it up at blackjack.

Ettinger rattled off two straight kills, however, and the Dons finished off the game.

San Marcos (15-9, 3-4) stormed out of the gates in the third, going up 11-8 after an ace by Anna Gerngross, who finished with five kills and a pair of aces. The game would go on to be tied at 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 before Madison Hamilton caught fire at the net and got in on three blocks as Santa Barbara once again pulled away.

The Royals host Ventura on Thursday, while the Dons (21-6, 5-1) and Chargers (21-5, 7-0) will be going toe-to-toe across town at J.R. Richards Gym. Gannon said he believed the latter will be the first time two local girls volleyball teams have played while inhabiting the top two spots in CIF rankings.

Buckle up.

(Photos by Blake Dorfman/PresidioPics)

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