San Marcos rises to the occasion, sweeps Santa Barbara

Senior Anika Wilson led the Royals with 10 kills and nine digs.

Senior Anika Wilson led the Royals with 10 kills and nine digs.

San Marcos setter Gabi Peoples plays with such passion and energy she’d probably run through a wall to help her team win.

Peoples was all over the court on Tuesday night, and her all-out play inspired the Royals to a sweep over Santa Barbara in a key Channel League girls volleyball match at a loud and hot Thunderhut.

The 25-16, 25-18, 25-20 win moves San Marcos into a first-place tie with Dos Pueblos at 4-2. Santa Babara falls to 3-3 in league. Ventura, which is off this week, is 3-2.

Peoples was the catalyst behind San Marcos’ stunning performance. She was on target with her sets, she dug balls and she combined with middle Emma Harrah for some key blocks in the second and third sets.

“She brings so much energy it’s like a virus,” San Marcos coach Erica Menzel Downing said of the way Peoples plays the game. “When she’s playing well it just goes through the whole team.”

Santa Barbara coach John Gannon felt Peoples made the difference in the match.

“Gabi had a heck of a match,” he said. “Her net play, her blocking, her setting, she was one of the stronger players on the court, without a doubt. She showed it.”

Peoples finished with 23 assists and five digs.

The sophomore sparked a San Marcos comeback from a 13-9 deficit in the second set with her blocking. She combined with Harrah to stuff a Santa Barbara attack, starting a 9-0 run that put the Royals into the lead at 22-16. She also had solo block during the run and delivered a perfect set that Harrah put away on a slide play.

“Our team really, really stepped up,” said Harrah, who had seven kills. “We were ready to play our hearts out. We definitely did that. And, I give great props to Gabi Peoples. She did a really good job with the ball. Gabi and I have a saying: ‘We’re on point.’ Our slides were on point tonight.”

Downing was pleased to see production from Hannah in the middle.

“Our middles have to score for us, whether it’s a block or a kill,” she said.

Gabi Peoples was the catalyst for San Marcos in its three-set sweep over rival Santa Barbara.

Gabi Peoples was the catalyst for San Marcos in its three-set sweep over rival Santa Barbara.

San Marcos jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the first set, capitalizing on Santa Barbara serving and hitting errors. The Dons hit their first two serve attempts out of bounds.

“Missing our first two serves of the match, that set the tone,” said Gannon.

The Dons got as close as 22-16 and had a chance to get to 17, but Anika Wilson ripped a ball down the line to end a long rally. The Royals scored the final two points on a net call against the Dons and a Santa Barbara hitting error.

Santa Barbara played better in the second set, getting kills from Lourda Weger and Jessyca Beksa. But more errors and the hitting of Wilson and some big blocks brought the Royals back.

“Anika, she’s like Gabi, she wants it so bad,” Downing said of her Pepperdine-bound senior. “She’ll do anything it takes. If I asked her to play middle, she’d play middle without a question, a blink, or anything. You need those kind of people.”

Wilson led the team in kills with 10. She and Chloe Allen tied for team honors with nine digs. The Royals had 41 digs as a team.

Weger and Beksa each had seven kills and Dane Miller had 15 digs to lead Santa Barbara.

The score was tied at 12 in the third set when the Dons mishandled a Harrah serve to give San Marcos the lead for good. Peoples followed with a shot for a point and Wilson put a ball away for a 15-12 advantage.

Middle Kamille Williams scored two big points on a block and a sideout to keep the Royals in the lead. San Marcos finished the match with a 4-1 run. Harrah and Peoples combined on a block for the final point.

“A lot of credit has to go to San Marcos. They brought more to the table than we did tonight,” said Gannon.

“These girls wanted it so bad,” Downing said. “They’re such great girls, they deserve it. To be able to come and play with a crowd like this and to have this win together, they’re going to remember that win.”

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