GVB: Dons jump on DP early, win in three sets

Santa Barbara High girls volleyball coach John Gannon didn’t want anybody to hold back in Thursday night’s Channel League clash at first-place Dos Pueblos.

“Against a team that’s first in league you got to keep your foot on the gas pedal,” Gannon said.

The Dons had a full tank and they floored it from the opening set and never let up, roaring past the Chargers in three sets, 25-12, 25-19, 25-20. The result leaves DP at 4-2 and Santa Barbara at 3-2 in a tight league race.

This was the first time in two weeks Santa Barbara had its full squad together. The Dons had four players, including three starters, suspended when they suffered a 3-1 loss against DP during the first round of league play.

Santa Barbara started fast in the rematch, with Lexi Rottman serving six straight points before DP was able to side out. The Dons were firing on all cylinders. They served tough, Rottman spread the ball around to all her hitters, libero Dane Miller lined up the Chargers’ powerful outside hitter McKenna Goss and picked up several of her big hits and middle Katie Gallivan was a force blocking the ball.

“That first set, I was impressed with our team, everything was so smooth,” Rottman said. “We were just rolling. When they did something, we came back; they never got on a run. It was just clean, perfect volleyball.”

Santa Barbara’s serving was so good, DP struggled to get in system for most of the night. The Chargers’ hitting percentage was just .007 for the match.

“We wanted to get off on the right foot and with Lexi’s tough serving to start the first set,” Gannon said. “We established the ball control we wanted to have.”

“In practice, we really emphasize the battle of the first contact,” Rottman explained. “So, whether it’s pristine serving or passing perfectly, or really going after it with our serve, we always want to win the battle of the first contact, as Gannon says. I definitely think we proved tonight that we can.”

Rottman served four aces and Louda Weger added three.

When Dos Pueblos was able to muster some good swings, Santa Barbara’s defense was there to pick the ball and execute in transition.

“We executed very well,” Gannon said. “That’s what we wanted to do. They were on their heels from the get go.”

Miller led the back-row defense with 23 digs.

“She played absolutely unreal,” Rottman said. “Anything DP would give to us, she was just perfect, whether it was an easy free ball or a hit straight down. Everything came up, which made the offense easy to run.”

DP coach Todd Garrett was impressed with Santa Barbara’s defense.

“Dane Miller was on fire,” he said. “We couldn’t get the ball down. We saw they were playing a deep perimeter, so we were trying to drop it in, but we couldn’t get our sets tight enough because we couldn’t pass the ball.

“But the real story is we were making those errors because, one, they were frustrating the hell out of us because the ball kept coming back. And, two, they served real solid and we couldn’t pass tonight. Girls that really, really step for us in passing and have been great all year, they just had an off night tonight.”

Santa Barbara’s attack was led by Weger’s 11 kills. Gallivan had five kills to go with her five blocks.

“Katie is someone who maybe doesn’t get all the attention but she is a critical piece for us,” said Gannon.

Goss had 11 kills and Natalie Klapp added nine to pace DP.

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