GVB: Dons let first set get away in loss to Ventura

Santa Barbara High was playing at a high level against CIF Division 1A sixth-ranked Ventura in the first set of their Channel League volleyball match Tuesday night at J.R. Richards Gym.

The Dons went up 24-22 on a Jessyca Beksa cut shot followed by a deep shot by Chloe Maurceri. But they couldn’t close out set and Ventura capitalized and went on to sweep the match, 26-24, 25-17, 25-21.

The result drops the Dons to third place in league at 2-2 while Ventura improves to 2-1.

“Finishing that first game was huge because it could have gone either way,” said Ventura coach Debbie Litten of the comeback win.

“Credit to Ventura, they played well, they dug, they beared down at 24-22 to get that point and 24-23 to get that point,” Santa Barbara coach John Gannon said. “They outscored us 4-0 to win that set and we couldn’t get a kill when we needed it.

“We’re fighting, the effort is there but it’s just execution,” he added. “We have our tallest hitter in the front row, we get her the ball and she’s got to put that ball away.”

Sammy Slater was spectacular hitting the ball for Ventura, blasting 21 kills with a hitting percentage of .430. Aubrey Knight and Sierra Conboy exploited the middle with a combined 24 kills. Conboy hit a blistering .550 with 11 kills.

“Sierra Conboy had great night for us at middle blocker,” said Litten. “From what we’d seen in scouting, that was the area we wanted to exploit.”

For Santa Barbara, which was playing without injured setter Linnea Skinner, Lourda Weger had 12 kills and Beksa was held to eight.

The Dons kept the score close early in the second set before the Cougars took command.

“In that second and third set, our passing kind of broke down early in the sets,” Gannon said. “You give Ventura some comfort and they’re going to run with the set.

“For us, we need to put pressure on them, and we did in the first set and we found ourselves in good position. But we couldn’t put any pressure on them in the second and third sets.”