Dons sweep first crosstown battle with Laguna Blanca

The gym was packed, the home student section was loud and rowdy. It was just the kind of atmosphere you’d expect at a crosstown girls volleyball match.

But this wasn’t your usual match between local teams. This was the little school going against the big school. It was Laguna Blanca hosting Santa Barbara High at Merovick Gym. The two girls volleyball programs have great tradition, and both have high expectations for this season.

The host Owls came out and played with no fear in the first set and took an 18-15 lead when senior Hannah White put away an overpass. They kept it close until Santa Barbara’s Lourda Weger scored on back-to-back kills to knot the score at 20-20. The Dons ended the set on a 5-1 run to prevail 25-21. They went on to win the next two sets, 25-13, 25-17,  to claim the first-ever meeting between the schools.

Jessyca Beksa led the CIF Division 1A sixth-ranked Dons with seven kills, Weger added six kills  and Katie Gallivan chipped in four. Senior setter Lexi Rottman played her usual solid all-around match, recording 27 assists, two blocks and two service aces. Middle Caroline Anderson had two blocks, Paige Mascari served three aces and Beksa added two.

White had eight kills and five digs to lead Laguna Blanca, last year’s CIF 4AA runnerup and the No. 2-ranked team in the division’s preseason poll. Junior middle Luisa Cameron had seven kills and freshman Caylin Zimmerman had a strong debut with six kills and six digs. Kendalll White had seven digs and junior returning All-CIF setter Phoebe Madsen handed out 29 assists.

Thursday’s match pitted two longtime friends against each other, coaches John Gannon of Santa Barbara and Jim Alzina of Laguna Blanca

“I’ve been asking Gannon for years to  play,” Alzina said. “The more good games or tough matches we can get against high level teams the more it benefits us. It’s a really good thing for us to do and I was stoked they said yes, and it was great way to start the season.”

Said Gannon: “I’ve known Jim for about 20 years now, and it was something we’ve been talking about since last spring. We never played Laguna before, but I knew they had some good pieces and they had a really good run last year; I came to watch some of the CIF matches here. It’s really fun, the atmosphere was great. I knew they’d have a good crowd here and it’s good to get our girls in front of a crowd at the start. Sometimes you go on the road and play a school and there’s not much of a crowd.

“It was fun match for us,” he continued. “It allowed us to see different players in different lineups and we kind of mixed it up a bit. It was a good learning experience for our girls.”