MVB: Vaquero comeback not enough

SBCC erased an 0-2 deficit for the second straight match on Wednesday night at the Sports Pavilion and had a 13-11 lead in the fifth set but couldn’t seal the deal in a 3-2 men’s volleyball loss to Santa Monica in the WSC opener for both teams. The scores were 25-13, 25-20, 22-25, 28-30, 18-16.

Taylor McCluskey led the Vaqueros (5-3, 0-1) with 19 kills and seven digs. To’o To’o added 11 kills, including a couple of smashes in the middle that staved off match points in the fifth set.

“We had a rough start but we really made a big change and started playing together as a team rather than playing solo and things started to work out for us,” said McCluskey, a 6-3 freshman from Mission Viejo.

“We ran a 6-2 tonight and had a front-row player on the right side all the time and that helps our blocking. We made a couple too many errors at the end and it didn’t work out in our favor.”

SBCC hit minus .240 in the first set and lost the fifth set, despite a stellar .643 hitting percentage.

To’o tied the fifth game with kills that knotted the score at 15-15 and 16-16. But the Corsairs (6-1, 1-0) responded with points each time to regain the lead. A Vaquero service error made it 17-16 Santa Monica and Frankie Manes ended the 2 hour, 20-minute marathon with an ace serve.

SBCC has played five-set matches in three of its last four outings and Wednesday was its first 3-2 loss.

The Vaqueros had four aces and committed 16 service errors.

Santa Barbara started the match slowly, falling behind 10-1 in the first set against last year’s State runner-up.

“Our guys battled back,” said coach Matt Jones. “I don’t think we got a kill in that first set until it was 18-7. After a slow start, we settled in late in the first set. The second set was cleaner but still not exactly what we wanted. Our defense was pretty good, except for the start. We couldn’t get any kills in transition until the third set, when we started to score a little bit.”

There were 11 ties in the third set until the Vaquero scored the final three points on a Corsair hitting error, a kill by McCluskey off the top of the block and an ace serve by Kyle Smiley.

Casey Alper had a team-high 14 digs and Keaton Arutian handed out 27 assists with Smiley getting 19. The Vaqueros trailed for most of the fourth set, including deficits of 16-11 and 20-18. They fought off a match point at 24-23 when McCluskey fired a kill off the block. Santa Monica survived five set points by the Vaqueros until an SBCC dig landed on the Corsairs’ side of the court for the 30-28 overtime win.

Sean Reynaert had eight kills for the Vaqueros and Jeremy Berch added seven kills (on .357 hitting) and five blocks.

“In the fourth and fifth sets, we got into some battles and came out on the right side of one and the wrong side of the other,” stated Jones. “No. 10 (6-7 sophomore Luis Palos) is going to be one of the best players in the league this year. He did a nice job of getting big kills when they needed it.

“It’s tough when you’re down a point over and over late in the fifth set. We kept getting ties but you need to break through at some point. We battled well tonight.”

The Vaqueros will play three of their next four on the road, starting Friday with a 6 p.m. match at L.A. Pierce.