BVB: Dons play in peak form in sweep of Oak Park

Gabe Reali was on target with his passing, Cord Pereira was dealing sets forward and backward, and Tristan Fauntleroy and Hayden Millington were pounding balls.

Yes, the Santa Barbara High boys volleyball teams was operating in system most of Thursday night. Its efficient play made a 25-21, 25-18, 25-17 sweep over Oak Park in the second round of the CIF Division 2 playoffs look easy at J.R. Richards Gym.

The Dons will be home for Saturday’s quarterfinal round against either Foothill or El Segundo.

Fauntleroy buried 16 kills and Millington put away 13 from the outside to pace the Dons’ attack against the Tri-Valley League champs. Kyle Skinner added seven kills and Quinn Denkensohn had six kills from the middle and picked up seven digs. Pereira, the sophomore setter, was sharp moving the ball around. He finished with 48 assists.

“Tristan told me this was going to be a tough match, but we came out and fought, worked hard and got things done,” said Pereira.

The Dons won a five-set battle in last year’s quarterfinals.

But Santa Barbara was at the top of its game on Thursday.

“We were really balanced,” Dons coach Chad Arneson said. “Our guys served well, didn’t make a lot of mistakes; the guys are just having fun. They keep learning how to play together as a team.”

Pereira gave props to Reali, who filled in at libero because starter Will Howard injured his ankle in practice.

“Gabe Reali stepped it up. He got some great passes and we were able to run all of our hitters. It was a really good for us,” said Pereira.

Denkenson said the team’s steady play is a result of maturity and the improvement of Pereira as a setter.

“He wants to get better,” Denkensohn said of Pereira. “That’s why he’s improving a lot. And it’s helping the team as a whole.”

Denkensohn missed the first Santa Barbara’s first two playoff matches with an injured knuckle, but you wouldn’t know it by how he played against Oak Park. He was stellar passing the ball and picking up big hits by Oak Park’s top hitters Woody Cook and Brendan Cook.

“I just love passing and defense, it’s a lot of fun,” he said.

“We looked comfortable out there,” said a pleased Arneson. “That’s good for me as a coach, knowing that they have all the confidence. What we talked about before this match was it was going to come down to defense and passing. If we can be in system for the most part we’re going to frustrate them.”

The Eagles were a frustrated bunch. Coach Patrick Quinn said the team’s youth played a part in its struggles.

“I have five freshman on varsity and it showed,” he said. “(Santa Barbara) kicked our butts tonight. They were the better team. That’s not how we normally play. We didn’t pass well, we didn’t serve well. Normally, those are our strengths. We just didn’t have a good night. Credit them, they did really well. I think they have a shot at getting to the semis.”