GVB: Santa Barbara handles San Marcos in 3 sets in Channel League opener

Santa Barbara High gained the upper hand in its crosstown Channel League girls volleyball rivalry with San Marcos by getting its hands on several attacks by the Royals on Wednesday night.

The Dons frustrated their rivals with penetrating blocks and solid back-row defense and swept the league-opening match 25-17, 25-23, 25-20 at a raucous J.R.Richards Gym.

San Marcos won both meetings last season.

Jessyca Beksa blasted 10 kills and picked up 11 digs to lead Santa Barbara (9-3), the No. 9-ranked team in the CIF 1-A Division. But it was the play of middle Katie Gallivan that had a huge impact in the win. She had five blocks and made things difficult for San Marcos’ explosive outside hitter Chloe Allen. Gallivan also put away six kills.

“We have great middle attackers,” Beksa said. “It’s great to have the middles going because  it really opens the hits on the outside. It’s a great team dynamic duo.”

“Our serving and our energy got us going,” Gallivan said. “We got a really good start and we  just kept up the energy. It was great to have our Scream Team here.”

Santa Barbara vs. San Marcos Volleyball

The Dons celebrate their three-set sweep over rival San Marcos. (Presidio Sports Photos)

Beksa said it was satisfying to get a sweep.

“People were predicting five games and four games and a sweep was out of the question,” she said. “I think that was a huge, huge win to beat them in a sweep.”

Lourda Weger added eight kills and setter Lexi Rottman handed out 34 assists. Libero Dane Miller had nine digs.

Chloe Allen still managed to lead the eighth-ranked Royals (4-2) in kills with 13, while Anika Wilson had five and Emily Allen added four.

San Marcos coach Erica Menzel Downing said it was frustrating to see the team play so inconsistent.

“We came out unconfident,” she said. “We’ve come into other games where we know we can win and I think there was a little bit of a hesitation tonight and it showed right from the get-go.”

Gallivan set the tone early, coming up with back-to-back plays to give the Dons a 13-8 lead in the first set. First, she combined with Jackie Starnes to block Chloe Allen and then won a joust in the middle that resulted in point. Another Gallivan block forced the Royals to commit a hitting error, putting the Dons ahead 17-11. She recorded a solo block for a 23-16 advantage.

“We really worked on getting those hands over the net and not reaching so high but reaching over,” Santa Barbara coach John Gannon said. “A lot of kids in high school want the big glory kill but if you just get your hands over and press you give those hitters a little trouble. We always say show four hands to the hitter  because when a hitter like Chloe sees only two hands up there  — one blocker  — it’s bombs away. When she’s seeing four hands, then she’s thinking, ‘Where am I hitting this ball, where am I placing this ball.’ We just tried to show her four hands quite a bit.

“We did a really good job, probably one of our better blocking matches tonight.”

Santa Barbara opened up a 14-11 lead in the second set before San Marcos started to loosen up. Middle Emma Harrah put away a step-out spike to ignite a four-point Royals’ run to knot the score a 17-17. Down 22-20, Chloe Allen earned a side out and Emily Allen recorded a kill after some fine defensive work to tie the score at 22-all. But the game got away from the Royals. A hitting error gave the lead back to the Dons and Starnes followed with an ace serve to make it 24-22.

Santa Barbara blockers Katie Gallivan, left, and Jackie Starnes stop an attack by Emma Harrah of San Marcos.

Santa Barbara blockers Katie Gallivan, left, and Jackie Starnes stop an attack by Emily Allen  of San Marcos.

The Dons committed a hitting error on the next ball and Sarah Kang followed with an ace for the Royals, tying the score at 24. But the point was nullified as Gannon pointed out to the floor referee that the Royals served out of turn. The official checked and Santa Barbara was awarded a side out and the final point.

San Marcos started playing with more consistency in the third set and went up 16-11 on a big blast by Chloe Allen.

Rottman and Gallivan helped Santa Barbara chip away at the lead. A Rottman dump followed by a Gallivan kill started a 7-1 run. Gallivan blocked an overpass of a Rottman serve and ended a long rally with a solo block to tie the score at 17. Rottman reeled off an ace and fed Gallivan for a kill to put the Dons on top, 19-17.

San Marcos got one point back on a Santa Barbara hitting error before the Dons’front line took over for the final points of the match.  Gannon cited the play of Tatum Vedder off the bench in the third set.

“I kept telling them, ‘We got one more run in us. Let’s put together a nice little run here,’” Gannon said of his team. “And Lexi in third set did a great job setting the middle and that was the key and turned that third set around. That was a really fun to see.

“That’s a really good team,” he said of San Marcos. “You can see the way they can control the ball and hit with pace.  We tried to neutralize it the best we can with good defense and good blocking and tough serving.”

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