There was a buzz in J.R. Richards Gymnasium for the crosstown rivalry match between the Santa Barbara and San Marcos high school girls’ volleyball teams to open Channel League play.
The visiting Royals rose to the occasion and gave every indication that they were up to the task of defending their league title with a 25-20, 25-13, 25-17 sweep of Santa Barbara on Thursday night.
“Our whole goal has been to work at finishing games with aggression,” said San Marcos coach Tina Brown. “Stay aggressive the whole way through, and they did a great job of that tonight.”
San Marcos boasted an incredibly balanced offense as setter Ellie Gamberdella did an admirable job of keeping all her attackers involved. Kristine Fimlaid finished with a match-high eight kills. Bella Johnson and Kendall Williams were right behind her with seven kills apiece.
Even more impressive than the kill numbers was the all-around play of the San Marcos attackers. Brynn Sofro racked up five kills, 13 digs, six blocks and two aces from her middle blocker position, while displaying an uncommon comfort in the back row.
“When everybody on the court is dominating, you stay in. We don’t take people out,” Brown said. “We’re like, ‘Let’s just finish this game.’ You’ll get an opportunity to play, and when you’re dominating you’ll get a chance to finish that game.”
Set one was close early on as Santa Barbara closed its deficit to 12-10 after a kill by Chloe Mauceri. But San Marcos pulled away from there sparked by a 9-0 serving run by Kendall Williams that put the Royals in front 21-10.
The Dons clawed back and cut their deficit to 24-20 after back-to-back kills by Ellie Chenoweth, but wouldn’t get any closer as San Marcos clinched the set when Brynn Sofro hit through the Santa Barbara block on the ensuing action.
The Royals were dominant in set two as their lead ballooned to 24-10 on a kill by Johnson, who also finished off the set with a massive spike that split the Santa Barbara block.
San Marcos (5-4 overall, 1-0 Channel League) clinched set three and the match when Reese Kelley hit long.
I think we came out a little flat tonight,” said Santa Barbara coach Ariana Garner. “Playing your rival and your friends, I think we let it get the best of us. I don’t think we performed to our potential tonight.”
The Dons were led by Mauceri and Kelley, who finished with seven kills apiece.