SBVC 15s enjoy a terrific start to the season

Three Santa Barbara Volleyball Club 15s teams opened their seasons in impressive fashion, with two of them earning byes in the second qualifying round in the Gold Bracket and the other going unbeaten in the Silver Bracket.

The 15-Smack team steam rolled through its Gold bracket pool on the first round of the qualifying matches at El Camino College. Using six different lineups in its six games of the day, the team provided a versatile and solid performance all day. The day started with a win over Elite VBC 25-8, 25-12 with McKenna Goss switching it up as outside hitter and middle blocker.

Emma Harrah (77) and McKenna Goss (88) combine on a block for the Santa Barbara Volleyball Club's 15-Smack team. (Photo by Steve Goss)

“McKenna did a great job making the transition from middle to outside from game to game both physical and mentally. She was our go-to hitter in that match and gave us a solid offensive strike in both positions, and she had some amazing serving runs,” said Coach K.C. Collins.

The team then swept Culver City 25-14, 25-9, with Emily Allen alternating as right and left side hitter.

Said Collins: “Not only did Emily provide heat offensively on both the right and left sides, she played solid defense wherever she was on the court and passed and served very well.”

The team closed out its last win against SCVC 15-Roxy 25-6, 25-13.

“The team gave a solid performance all around and made very little unforced errors. Everyone contributed in every match. It was a good start for the season,” said Collins

The win earns the team a bye for the second qualifying round.

John Sener’s 15-Blue team went 2-1 to place second for the day in the Gold Bracket at Artesia High. The team opened with a loss to So-Cal Jrs 15-Elite 25-12, 25-11. But after a two-hour break it turned the day around and won back-to-back matches against Tustin 15-Garry (25-15, 25-21) and LAVA 15-Brandon (25-10, 25-23).

“This team went into the weekend not knowing if they could stand up to Gold division teams, and walked away knowing that if they play together as a team they can compete and win at this level,” said Sener. “The leadership on the court from our libero Paige Mascari and the exceptional play at the net from both middles Katie Gallivan and Gillian Fry kept the opposition off balance all day.”

The second-place finish gives the team a bye for the second qualifying round.

The 15-White team upset its competition in the Silver bracket pool at Chaffey College. The team beat Rancho Valley 15-Navy 25-22, 25-14, Club West 15-Blue 25-16, 25-10 and Nevada Jrs 15-Black 25-19, 25-20.

“The first two matches we were pretty consistent and sided out at a high level, so I was happy,” said coach Jeff Minc. “We had some problems with our serving early on but we steadied out and played well towards the end of each match.”

In the team’s last match, Phoebe Roberts went on a serving run early in the first set to give Santa Barbara a comfortable lead and she had some big blocks towards the end. Set two of the match was a battle with key defensive plays by Ale Tacconelli, and Jackie McIntyre made some clutch serves in the end to clinch the match win.

Coach Minc continued, “Sarah Butler set well and Mikayla Werner and Jackie McIntyre hit very well from the outside … every player did a great job which led to our success for the day.”

The 12-Smack played some hard-fought battles in their Gold bracket pool at Long Beach State.

“The girls were really nervous and excited since this was their first real tournament, and even though we didn’t win a match, it was an excellent experience for them,” said coach Laura Marcus. “They were able to see teams play at a high level and it has really motivated them to improve and stay focused.”

Marcus added: “Julia McCaw made an excellent play on a ball out of the net that the coach on the opposing team was so impressed he congratulated her. Also, we were delightfully surprised by Alison Minnich’s play. She is the youngest on the team and led in aces and digs in several games. We were really impressed by the chemistry of the whole team, they all played really well together.”

SBVC 18-Smack takes 3rd at MLK Speakeasy

In other news, the 18-Smack team participated in the annual MLK Speakeasy, a two-day, high-level scrimmage tournament attended by college coaches. The team finished third overall, competing against some tough competition.

“The girls really stepped up this weekend,” coach Jason Donnelly said. “We left the tournament Sunday knowing that we can compete with the best teams in the country.  We might not always match up physically with our opponent, but I would put our skill, effort and volleyball IQ up against anybody..”

On Day 1, the 18-Smack beat Wave 18-Brennan 23-25, 25-23, 15-7, Surf City 25-16, 25-19, and Texas Advantage 25-18, 20-25, 15-10. On Day 2, they continued the streak through pool play, beating two northern California teams NCVC 18-Moxie 26-24, 25-19 and City Beach 18-Black 17-25-, 25-21, 15-11.

The team entered the semifinal match against another northern California team and ultimately lost to Vision 18-Gold in two sets.

Taylor Racich led the way offensively with 62 kills and hit .250 on the weekend.

“She is constantly the focus of the other teams’ defense and consistently manages to put the ball on the floor,” Donnelly said. “Her passing and defense is showing improvement as well. Our outside hitters, Allie Eason, Amanda Moriarty and Dani Rottman, were consistent all tournament long.  They were effective offensively, both in and out of system, continuously provided a defensive spark, and passed at an extremely high clip. Our setters, Amanda Harvey and Tristan Racich, are learning what it takes to run an offense at this level and I thought each of them made great strides throughout.

“In making the semifinals of an extremely competitive pre-season tournament, the girls learned what we do well, and, most importantly, we all have a better idea of our areas of weakness,” Donnelly continued. “Playing great early is one thing, but our goal is to continue to improve and to be playing our best volleyball at the end of the season.”