For the first time this postseason the Santa Barbara High boy’s volleyball team got off to a fast start.
The excitement of the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals attracted a raucous crowd to J.R. Richards Gymnasium and the Dons fed off that energy for the better part of two games, but Mira Costa methodically imposed its will on the match and in the end the visiting Mustangs emerged victorious 15-25, 27-25, 25-20, 25-17 on Wednesday night.
“We kind of talked about trying to set the tone. The last couple of playoff games we’ve got off to a slow start,” said Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson. “I’ve got to give our boys a lot of credit as far as using the home court to our advantage in game one.”
The Dons exploded out to a 9-4 lead and increased that lead to 20-12 on Kylan O’Connor’s second solo block of the set. Santa Barbara clinched the first set on a kill from the back-row by Stanford-bound Will Rottman.
The overwhelming dominance that Santa Barbara possessed in that opening game was shocking, but Mira Costa quickly regrouped.
“This is such a hard environment to play in. The kids were so fired up. Every time we’re going back to serve there’s keys jangling and voices, “ said Mira Costa coach Avery Drost. “People were bringing the house at us and that is unbelievably cool, but that’s hard, these kids are like 17 and it’s hard to stand up to that pressure.”
Set two featured 12 ties as the two teams went back and forth. The Dons took their largest lead at 19-16 on a Mira Costa net violation, but the Mustangs evened the score at 20-20 when Dain Johnson and Thomas Kretschmer combined for a block.
A Riley Roach kill gave Santa Barbara its final lead of the set 23-22 as Mira Costa again responded with back-to-back kills by Ben Cordt to take a 24-23 lead and force a Santa Barbara timeout.
Rottman evened the score at 24-24 with a spike from the back row. But a Cordt kill gave Mira Costa a 26-25 lead and the Mustangs captured the set on a kill by Kretschmer.
“Obviously we are in huge trouble if we don’t win that (second set),” Drost said.
The match turned on a dime after Mira Costa was able to close out that second set. In set three, Mira Costa used a 5-0 run to turn a 14-13 deficit into an 18-14 lead and never looked back. A kill by Ethan Young clinched the set.
The Mustangs pulled away midway through set four and clinched the match on a team block. Cordt led the way for Mira Costa with 22 kills. Kretschmer tacked on 14 kills and Adam Sevier chipped in ten kills.
For Santa Barbara, it was the first trip to the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals in the 14-year tenure of coach Arneson. The Dons have reach the Division 2 finals three times during that span.
Will Rottman once again carried a heavy load with 22 kills. The next highest kill total was Riley Roach with six kills. The Dons reveived excellent contributions from their middles defensively as Aiden Douglas and O’Connor finished with six and four kills respectively.
Santa Barbara will likely receive a berth into the state tournament as a result of reaching the Division 1 semifinals.