GVB: Dons hold off a tough Palos Verdes team in first round

Santa Barbara High's girls volleyball team won its first-round match on Tuesday over Palos Verdes.

Santa Barbara High’s girls volleyball team won its first-round match on Tuesday over Palos Verdes. (Wade Carr File Photo)

Santa Barbara High girls volleyball coach John Gannon summed up Tuesday’s CIF Division 1-AA first-round playoff win this way: “We did what we needed to do.”

The Dons got 15 kills from Lourda Weger, 21 digs from Bailey Roach and 46 assists from Lexi Rottman and pulled out a tight four-set match against a tough Palos Verdes team, 25-20, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, at J.R. Richards Gym.

The Channel League-champion Dons advance to a second match on Thursday against either Orange Lutheran or Fountain Valley.

Santa Barbara used tough serving, defense and Rottman spreading the ball around to win the first two sets against the Sea Kings.

But Palos Verdes, which finished third behind CIF top-10 teams Redondo and Mira Costa in the Bay League, started to find its rhythm behind potent outside hitters Sam Hunter and Lorna Brandt.

Back-to-back blocks by Erin Donahue and Carly Staub gave the Sea Kings a 21-19 lead in the third set. A kill by Kate Gallivan in the middle and a putaway by Jackie Starnes, set up by a tough serve by Roach, tied the score at 23-23. Palos Verdes, however, scored the last two points on a kill by middle Danielle Finks and a Santa Barbara error to get back in the match.

The match appeared to be headed to a fifth set when Brandt went off for Palos Verdes and scored five points during an 8-2 run, giving the Sea Kings a 19-14 advantage.

“We definitely had our hands full tonight,” Gannon said about playing Palos Verdes. “We tried to slow down the ball with that big outside they had (Brandt). She’s going to USC to play sand volleyball and she’s a good player.”

Tessa Dewell sided out for the Dons to spark a comeback. Caroline Anderson got a solo block and pounded an overpass, and a tough serve by Dewell led to a kill by Weger to make it 19-18. Roach dug a big hit by the Sea Kings and Weger converted in transition with a dink to tie the score at 19.

Palos Verdes went back ahead by two on a kill by Hunter and a mis-timed spike by the Dons.

But Santa Barbara fought back again.

“We really tightened down on our passing and we had to swing hard,” Rottman said. “That’s what helped us pull out that fourth set.”

Katie Gallivan hit through the block for a point and scored again on a tip, and Beksa blocked a ball to knot the score at 23-all. Beksa and Gallivan then got a touch on a PV hit and Rottman fed Beksa for a crushing spike to put the Dons ahead 24-23.

Beksa missed the Tournament of Champions and the last regular-season match against San Marcos because of a leg infection.

“You could see it in the first set she didn’t have her rhythm,” Gannon said of the 6-1 Beksa, who had seven kills. “But she got kills when she needed to; she got three kills when she really wasn’t feeling it. But when it really came down to it at 23-all and we set her, she was able to put that ball away. I think that was a really big play. It was nice for her to step up like that.”

Santa Barbara’s defense set up the winning point. Gallivan went low and popped the ball up with a one-armed stab and Dewell hit a shot into the deep court to end the match.

“Here’s a girl I yanked in the first set and yet she comes back in the third, comes back in the fourth and still has the mental resolve to stay tough to get that final kill of the match,” Gannon said of Dewell.

Anderson had nine kills and Starnes added seven for the Dons. On defense, Dane Miller and Weger each picked up 15 digs and Weger had 19 serves without an error. The team had only six service errors for the match.

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