GVB: Dons have too much finesse for DP

This year’s Santa Barbara High girls volleyball team isn’t winning matches with crushing, ball-deflating spikes. Instead, it’s beating teams with solid ball control, defense, tough serving and finesse hitting.

Dos Pueblos found that out Thursday night in the Channel League opener at Sovine Gym, as the Chargers fell victim to Santa Barbara’s intelligent play. The Dons, behind setter Lexi Rottman, showed good balance in posting a 25-20, 25-16, 25-22 victory.

“They were roll shotting us to death,” a frustrated DP coach Todd Garrett said.
“Our defense was just all over the place. They weren’t bouncing balls, they were roll-shotting us. We even pulled our block at one point. We’re touching balls left and right (at the net), and our defense can’t play behind it.”

Santa Barbara outside hitters Tessa Dewell and Lourda Weger consistently tooled blocks or found gaps between DP blockers. Dewell had a team-high 10 kills and Weger added nine. Lucie Simmons and Jackie Starnes chipped in six kills apiece.

Bailey Roach delivered on-the-money passes and digs to Rottman, who was able to mix up her sets and surprise DP’s defense with timely dumped balls for points.

Dons coach John Gannon lauded his girls for their smart play.

“We’ve had some smart teams in the past but this is one of our smartest teams,” he said. “It’s really fun to coach and really fun to watch them play. If you see transition plays, Lexi is making the right set; she’s a very, very bright, smart setter. She set Lourda — Lourda had the hot hand going; Tessa, too She sets a really nice tempo. We get swings on almost every ball. We’re not getting the strongest swings sometimes, but we’re getting swings on every rally. Even in the back row, our back-row hitters are really smart and do a good job putting it on (the opponent), and have them have to transition, dig a ball and transition out of that.”

The Dons (6-4, 1-0) also were tough from the service line. Rottman served up three aces, and Starnes and Tatum Vedder scored on the serve during a third-set comeback.

Rottman served back-to-back aces in the first set to give the Dons a 23-19 lead. Dos Pueblos got a point back and appeared to score again when a serve handcuffed Roach. The senior libero, however, managed to keep the ball in play and the Dons got a set off it that Simmons put away to make it 24-20. Weger ended the set with a kill.

Santa Barbara had DP chasing it the entire second set. The Dons opened up an 8-3 lead and never looked back.

The Chargers (2-6, 0-1) won a long rally early in the third set to take a 7-4 advantage. But DP mistakes and the smart hitting of Dewell and Weger brought the Dons back.

“We couldn’t pass anything up in front of the 10-foot line,” said Garrett. “We need to help our setters out. We’re not going to be able to tip Santa Barbara to death. We’re not going to be able to hit at five feet, six feet against Santa Barbara because the ball is not going to go down.

“We’ve got three good arms; we got Teah (Burdick), Natalie (Klapp) and McKenna (Goss), but they can’t hit the ball at eight feet and expect it to go down.”

Goss put away 12 kills and Klapp had 11 to lead Dos Pueblos.

Weger, a sophomore recorded back-to-back kills for a 22-21 lead in the third set. Simmons then converted a dig by Roach into a kill for 23-21.

After a Goss kill pulled DP to within one, Weger turned two spikes off Charger blockers to clinch the match.

“We got a great match out of Lourda Weger, being a sophomore and stepping in for a player who was sick,” Gannon said. “She doesn’t get a ton of playing time and here she is in a big match kind of putting her stamp on it.”