With Worley in control, Dons sweep DP, clinch league title

Ryan Worley showed Thursday night in an important Channel League volleyball match against rival Dos Pueblos that he’s in full control of running Santa Barbara’s offense.

The sophomore setter did a solid job of mixing up the attack, helping the Dons to a 25-22, 25-22, 25-18 sweep that gave them the Channel League title.

Santa Barbara is 6-1 in league play (16-8 overall) with one remaining match at Ventura. DP (14-11, 3-3) is in a battle for second place with San Marcos and Ventura, who also have three losses.

Worley, who was thrust into the starting lineup when regular setter Gavin Trudeau suffered a broken wrist last month, looked the most comfortable he has all season. He effectively spread the ball around to keep DP’s blockers off balance.

“I was a lot more confident and that really showed in the game,” said Worley.

Santa Barbara’s hitting totals told the story of his effectiveness. Middles Clifford Anderson and Sam Cohen posted 10 and five kills, respectively, Alex Biedul led the team with 11 kills while Holden Ploch had nine and Casey Slaught added seven.

Nick Clark led the back-row defense with 12 kills.

Worley was aided by the steady passing of his teammates.

“I have to give props to Ryan Worley,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson said. “For a kid that’s a sophomore … He always tells me he wants to play, and we need him to play better. He showed that. He’s really stepped up. He really made some clutch sets in the match, setting the middle. I think he’s starting to get confidence in setting the middle and that really showed.  We had a really balanced attack today.”

Santa Barbara was very focused coming into the match after losing at San Marcos on Tuesday. The Dons bolted out to a 15-10 lead in the first set behind the blocking of Anderson and the hitting of Biedul and Ploch on the outside.

“The way we turned it around and responded after Tuesday just shows how much of a tight-knit group we are,” Arneson said.  “The kids knew it was going to be a dogfight. Our boys played some of our most consistent volleyball all season.”

Dos Pueblos got as close as 21-19 on a Mansai Conner attack in the middle.   But Ploch responded with a kill on the outside and Anderson followed with a solo block to give the Dons a four-point cushion.

A Charger serving error and a Cohen kill in the middle finished off the set.

The Dons built a three-point lead at 14-11 in the second set, but the hitting of Jay Larinan and a couple of big plays by Carson Curtis helped DP pull to within one, 20-19

Worley fed Ploch for a kill on the left and then gave a back set to Casey Slaught on the right side for a putaway and a 22-19 advantage.

Dos Pueblos capitalized on a Santa Barbara mishandled ball and a hitting error to make it 23-22.

But the Dons pulled out the win on back-to-back blocks by Anderson. He led the match with nine blocks.

“You can’t miss a 6-8, 6-9 guy, DP coach Chris Hughes said. “Cliff has got a very nice block. Clifford is going to get his, and you’ve have to earn yours.”

In the third set, Worley fed Cohen for a kill in the middle to start a three-point run that put Santa Barbara ahead 15-10.  A solo block by Slaught and an ace serve by Worley increased the lead to 23-15.

“I think Santa Barbara played more steady than they have all year,” Hughes said. “They made key plays at key times. For us, we made some not great plays at key times, and when you do that it hurts.”

Larinan had a big night for the Chargers with 13 kills, while Gabe Burdick added nine and Conner six. Keaton Arutian picked up seven digs.