GVB: Royals pushed to 5 sets by improved Chargers

San Marcos withstood a stellar defensive effort from Dos Pueblos and escaped with a five-set victory at Sovine Gym on Thursday night to finish the first round of Channel League volleyball play undefeated.

The Royals rallied from a 2-1 deficit in sets and pulled out a 25-22, 24-26, 22-25, 25-21, 15-6 thriller that lasted nearly three hours.

Setter Gabi Peoples was spectacular for San Marcos (4-0), notching a triple-double with 58 assists, 10 kills and 14 digs. She also had a block and ran down several balls to keep plays alive.

“We don’t win this match without Gabi,” San Marcos coach Erica Downing said. “We’re not 4-0 without her either. She gets us a lot of points and has the fire and the attitude. She’s just a great all-around player to have on your team.”

Chloe Allen had a double-double with 31 kills (on .300 hitting percentage) and 19 digs. Williams was effective in the middle, posting 10 kills.

The Royals also got some clutch serving from Jenna MacFarlane in the fourth set and from Cassidy Drury-Pullen and Taryn Stevens in the fifth set.

San Marcos needed to dig deep to turn back a fired-up Dos Pueblos squad. The Chargers (1-3) were defensive dynamos. Libero Cat Hogan played a tremendous match, scooping up several thunderous hits from the Royals. Early in the match she had the wind knocked out of her after plowing into a teammate while chasing down a ball. She left the game briefly, came back and played lights out.

“We told them that (Dos Pueblos) basically out-hearted us,” Downing said. “They wanted it so much more. Defensively, they wanted it, and for us to see something like that is good for us.”

DP coach Dillan Bennett said he didn’t have a specific game plan other than dig everything San Marcos threw at them.

“The only plan was to touch every ball we can and if we’re not touching balls we’re at least going for them. “I thought defensively we did pretty well, but Chloe Allen is a Division 1 outside hitter that’s really hard to stop if we’re not very good.”

The DP offense was sparked by the hitting of exchange student Bianca Di Patrizi, who returned to the lineup after dealing with an injury. Her energy and ability to put the ball away caught San Marcos off guard a bit.

“Bianca played well in her first varsity match,” said Bennett. “To compete with a team of San Marcos’ caliber bodes well for the second round of league.”