San Marcos dethrones Santa Barbara with dramatic 4-set victory

Shane Hauschild of San Marcos hammers one of his 30 kills past Santa Barbara blockers Jasper Rhodes, left, and Quinn  Denkenson. (Presidio Sports photo)

Shane Hauschild of San Marcos hammers one of his 30 kills past Santa Barbara blockers Jasper Rhodes, left, and Quinn Denkenson. (Presidio Sports photos)

 

If San Marcos was going to win the outright Channel League boys volleyball title, it was going to have to fight tooth and nail and pry it away from nine-time reigning champion Santa Barbara.

That’s just what the Royals did on Tuesday night at Santa Barbara’s J.R. Richards Gym. They fought off four set points in the fourth set and pulled out a heart-stopping 32-20 victory to beat the Dons 3-1 and claim the championship. The full match scores were 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, 32-30.

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When Shane Hauschild put away the kill for the final point, the Royals went crazy and their fans ran out onto the court to celebrate with new champions.

“I’m kind of like in shock right now; I’m shaking,” said Hauschild, who pounded a whopping 30 kills, including the last two for San Marcos in the fourth set. “As a group of seniors, we wanted it so bad. Our whole team had the will to win and it finally feels great to be on top of Channel League after all these years.”

The Royals finish league at 7-1. They are 24-3 overall and ranked No. 1 in CIF Division 2. Santa Barbara falls to third place in league at 4-3 in league (10-8 overall) with one match remaining against Ventura on Friday.

“It’s an amazing feeling right now,” said San Marcos outside hitter Baker Johnson of winning the title. He had 21 kills. “We’ve worked so hard as a team. Just seeing that we finally won, it is amazing.

“Santa Barbara is a super good team,” he added. “They kept coming back on us. We did the best we could and we barely pulled it out in that fourth game.”

Said San Marcos coach Roger Kuntz: “I don’t know if it gets more thrilling than that, to tell you the truth. That’s about as ferocious of a battle in volleyball that I’ve ever been a part of, both as a player and a coach. “

Kuntz said it was the first time he’s won a match at Santa Barbara.

And he’ll never forget how his Royals did it.

Jake Castanha recorded a huge block in the fourth set for San Marcos.

Jake Castanha recorded a huge block in the fourth set for San Marcos.

After dropping the second set, San Marcos found itself behind 22-18 in the third set against a fired-up Dons team.

But the Royals turned to their “Thunder and Lightning” combination of Hauschild and Baker to fight back. Hauschild, the Thunder, had three straight kills for points and Johnson followed with an off-speed shot to tie the score at 22-all. Libero Sean Estabrooks dug balls on back-to-back plays and Hauschild finished the rallies to put the Royals ahead 24-22. Tristan Fauntleroy got a sideout for Santa Barbara before Hauschild buried another kill for the winning point.

“I lost a lot of years today watching that,” said Kuntz of the third-set comeback.

“We had some momentum in that third game,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson said. “We got some tough serving by Kyle Skinner. I thought we were headed in the right direction, but volleyball is so schizophrenic. You never know what could happen.”

Everything happened in the fourth set as both teams went at each other like a couple of fighters trading blows.

San Marcos got solo blocks from Hauschild and middle Cole Wenal during a five-point run to take a 15-10 lead. But Hayden Millington started a Santa Barbara comeback. Kills by Will Pulice in the middle and Jasper Rhodes on the outside cut the deficit to 17-16.

The Dons pulled even at 20-20 on a three-man block against Hauschild. But San Marcos regained the momentum and put itself at match point (24-22) after Hauschild sided out.

Santa Barbara kept battling as Rhodes put away back-to-back spikes and Denkensohn hammered an overpass to put the Dons into the lead at 25-24.

San Marcos fought off the set point by getting a huge solo block by Jake Castanha against Fauntleroy, who led the Dons with 20 kills.

Denkensohn had 12 kills, Millington added 11, Pulice put away nine, Skinner had eight and Rhodes contributed six kills. Sophomore setter Cord Pereira handed out 60 assists.

San Marcos libero Sean Estabrooks celebrates a point.

San Marcos libero Sean Estabrooks celebrates a point.

 

Santa Barbara reached set point twice more but San Marcos stayed alive with some big plays.

“I think we got a little cocky when were up 24-22,” Hauschild said. “(Santa Barbara) fought real hard; they stuffed us a couple of times. It was just a back-and-forth battle. It was the kind of volleyball everybody wants to watch. It was awesome. “

A Christian Widmer dump tied the score at 29-29 and then Wenal recorded a solo block to put the Royals at match point, 30-29.

Pulice’s block solo against Hauschild got the Dons even at 30-30.

For the last two points, Widmer went to the “Thunder,” and Hauschild delivered in the clutch.

“You got to give them credit,” Arneson said of the Royals. “They kept fighting, kept batting. Christian Widmer, he’s a top-notch setter. He makes the difference on certain plays.”

Hauschild expected a tough match from Santa Barbara.

“They’re playing for a share of first place, so we knew they were going to come out hard,” he said. “We wanted it just as bad. We didn’t want to share it with anyone. And we don’t have to. “

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