BVB: Dons advance past Foothill into D2 Championship

Santa Barbara High’s boys volleyball team earned a trip to the Division 2 CIF Championship match by defeating visiting Foothill on Wednesday night 25-21, 24-26, 25-23, 25-20.

The Dons will face top-seeded Esperanza at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at Santiago Canyon College to decide the CIF champion.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” said Dons player Joe Rafferty. “I don’t even know how to think about it. It’s just crazy, I’m really happy about it.”

Santa Barbara reached its third CIF final under head coach Chad Arneson with strong team chemistry and a string of four-straight home playoff matches.

“It’s amazing. It hasn’t really set in yet but I can’t wait to go,” said senior captain Carl Mendoza. “We’re playing the team we lost to in five last time. Esperanza, they have really good outsides. I can’t wait to play them.”

Esperanza topped San Marcos 25-21, 25-15, 25-15 in the other Division 2 semifinal.

Foothill’s impressive run through the playoffs as the No. 7 seed came to a hard-fought end.

“I’m super proud of my boys. A little bit off today but you know what, they fought hard and that’s all you can really ask of your boys,” said Knights head coach Josh Ko.

“I feel bad for my seniors to kind of finish it the way we did, not playing the best that we could play. But at the same time, we made a hell of a run.”

Foothill senior Jason Weedon led the team with 12 kills and 10 digs.

Santa Barbara’s Ryan Worley posted a team-high 14 kills. Tristan Fauntleroy added 13 and Rafferty 12. Middles Quinn Denkensohn and Channing Peake combined for 12 kills and seven blocks.

“We’re really balanced. We don’t rely on one player and we’re able to set everyone so that’s kind of the difference in winning a big match like that. It’s a team effort,” Arneson said.

The Dons had a chance for a sweep but committed three straight errors to drop Game 2 after being up for most of the set. A Fauntleroy kill gave the Dons a set point at 24-23.

“We felt kind of like we let that get away a little bit from us,” Rafferty said. “We came straight back in the next game and brought it.”

The third set still could have gone either way with the game tied at 20-20. With the home crowd on their side, the Dons won the big points, including a nice dump by setter Hart Pitcher on set point.

The fourth set was tied as late as 19-19. The Dons closed out the match winning six of the final seven points.

Santa Barbara High and Esperanza have played already once this season at the Karch Kiraly Tournament of Champions. Esperanza clinched the five-set match 15-12.

The Dons were without outside hitter Fauntleroy and middle blocker Denkensohn at the time and feel like they’re a stronger team.

“In the end, it’s worked out well but we still have one job to accomplish and that’s to try and win CIF on Saturday,” Arneson said.