Dons flying high heading into spring break

Spring break is coming at the worst time for Santa Barbara boys volleyball coach Chad Arneson. His team is playing at near-peak form as it goes into the week-long vacation.

“I hope we don’t lose any momentum. I hope everyone stays healthy,” said Arneson as his players headed out the door at San Marcos’ Thunderhut on Thursday night.

Setter Gavin Trudeau made sure the Dons would look forward to coming back from vacation as got everyone involved with 52 assists in a four-set win over the Royals. The scores were 25-15, 25-16. 23-25, 25-17.

Santa Barbara improves to 9-3 and 3-0 in Channel League; San Marcos is 8-4, 0-3.

Trudeau effectively spread the ball around to keep his hitters happy. Holden Ploch and Sam Cohen were powerhouses in the middle, blasting 15 and 11 kills, respectively. Casey Slaught, the recipient of several well-placed back sets, delivered 11 kills.

“He’s just one of those kind of Tom Brady quarterbacks — you can trust him and put the ball in his hands,” Arneson said of Trudeau. “I thought he did a great job distributing the ball for us, very solid. I know last year he wasn’t able to play in that match, so I knew coming in that he was eager to show how good of setter he is. I think Gavin doesn’t gets a lot of credit sometimes.”

Ploch dented the floor on a couple of Trudeau quick sets in the fourth game to put the Dons comfortably ahead 19-14. Cohen smashed one to make it 23-16.

“I’m trying to play my hardest,” said Trudeau, who suffered a broken wrist before the third match last season and missed the rest of the year. “I just want to make up for it my senior year, win every game in league and win every game we can.”

Ignited by a big blast from sophomore Tristan Fauntleroy, the Dons appeared to be heading into spring break on a sweep. They won the first two sets without much of a problem and were leading 5-1 in the third set.

But San Marcos caught fire. Middle Kevin Hempy stuffed two hits and setter Christian Widmer dumped a ball for a point to tie the score at 10-10.

Now, it was game on.

Spencer Johnson ripped a ball off the Santa Barbara block to give the Royals their first lead at 13-12. A couple of blocks by Jack Shields and a kill and a blocked overpass by Shane Hauschild put them up 20-17.

Another Hauschild kill and a violation against Santa Barbara expanded the San Marcos lead to 23-19.

The Dons fought back, pounding several balls at the Royals. There was one sequence where libero Kyle Estabrooks dug three straight booming spikes, but Santa Barbara would eventually get the point on a shot by Nick Clark. Slaught made a solo block and combined with Ploch on another block to make it 23-22.

Hauschild ripped a ball from the right sided for the 24th point and a Santa Barbara hitting error gave the Royals the deciding point of the set.

“You got to give (San Marcos) all the credit, they really earned that third game,” said Arneson. “We had to check ourselves in the mirror and realize: ‘This is going to be battle, and you guys have to fight really hard.’ The guys, collectively as a group, did a good job.”

Hauschild led the Royals with 12 kills and Johnson added nine. Estabrooks picked up 15 digs.

San Marcos kept the momentum early in the fourth set. But the Dons took it back after a block for a 13-12 lead. Ploch followed with another kill and Slaught served an ace to put them in control at 15-12. They would expand the lead to 22-15.

“Holden is just so calm and collective,” Arneson said. “His playing does the talking, and I really respect that. He did awesome. He deserves to be a Division 1 player.”

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