BVB: Skinner provides big boost in Dons’ win over DP

Some new blood has given new life to the Santa Barbara High boys volleyball team.

The addition of outside hitter Kyle Skinner made the Dons look like a different team Tuesday night in a Channel League victory over Dos Pueblos in four sets at J.R. Richards. The scores were 16-25, 25-20, 26-24, 25-19.

The rivalry win puts the Dons in the title chase with a 2-2 record. DP suffered its first league loss and is 4-1.

Skinner, a transfer from Arroyo Grande who just became eligible, pounded 17 kills in his debut to lead a more balanced Santa Barbara attack. Tristan Fauntleroy had 14 kills, Quinn Denkensohn contributed nine in the middle and Hayden Millington added six from the outside.

“His energy is contagious out there on the court for us,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson said of Skinner. It’s a great addition, a much needed addition.”

Skinner has an all-around game. He was a libero at Arroyo Grande last season.

“He’s steady, he’s focused, he doesn’t let things bother him,” Arneson said. “He took a lot of pressure off of Tristan. We were able to be more balanced with having Kyle Skinner out there.”

Having strong hitters at both pins greatly benefitted Denkensohn in the middle. He played one of his best matches of the season. In the pivotal third set, he dunked a ball to give the Dons a 25-24 lead. They trailed 24-21.

“I decided to have him as a six-rotation player and I think that’s going to benefit us in the long run, keeping him more engaged in the match,” Arneson said of Denkensohn.

Denkensohn said the team played with more energy in the rematch with DP.

“Before, we didn’t have any fire, we had no drive,” he said. “But we came in with a lot more energy tonight.”

He said that drive made the difference in the third-set comeback.

“We knew we still had a shot and we just never gave up.”

Said Arneson of the comeback: “We got some breaks here and there. We were able to keep our focus and we persevered, I guess. The guys didn’t let the (DP) lead bother us.”

The Dons (7-7 overall) carried the momentum into the fourth and roared out to leads of 10-2 and 16-7.

Dos Pueblos fought back and cut the deficit to 18-14 after a big dig by Niko Plesons followed by a Eli Wopat kill. But Santa Barbara regrouped as Denkensohn recorded a stuff block, Fauntleroy crushed an overpass and consecutive DP errors pushed the lead up to 22-14.

“We had our opportunities and we couldn’t execute,” DP coach Ehren Hug said. “That’s how volleyball goes some times. I thought the boys fought hard tonight. We just had a couple of hiccups here and there. That’s good team over there in Santa Barbara. They definitely improved from the last time we played them. And that’s what we were expecting.”

Nate Holmes had 14 kills to lead DP (9-6), while Matt Sessler had nine and Kurtis Randmaa added eight. Plesons picked up 28 digs, Nate Holmes had 20 and Eli Shulman had seven blocks to lead the Chargers defense.

“Am I disappointed that we lost? Of course, but I’m very proud of my boys at how the fought back in that fourth game,” Hug said. “Hats off to Santa Barbara, they competed. They competed a lot better tonight.”

Arneson noticed the difference, too.

“I think we’re playing with a lot more spirit out there, a lot more passion, a love for the game,” he said. “The players are starting to feel that joy of going out there and playing.”

Arneson lauded the play of setter Cord Pereira, who had career-best 37 assists, and Nico Smith, who came off the bench and contributed in the middle.