San Marcos Halts Dos Pueblos’ Comeback to Claim Channel League Victory

Zach Willbanks and Jack Wilson Combined for 36 Kills

#3 Zach Willbanks clinches the match for San Marcos with a spike to the back corner. | Credit: Gary Kim

Wild momentum swings made for an entertaining Channel League rivalry match as the San Marcos boys’ volleyball team survived a spirited comeback by Dos Pueblos to claim 26-24, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24 victory on Thursday night at Sovine Gym.

The Royals were led by Zach Willbanks and Jack Wilson, who finished with 20 and 16 kills, respectively. The steady hand of setter Hansen Streeter also helped San Marcos stay the course against the determined Chargers.

“These crosstown matches — that’s what they’ve been all about since I’ve been coaching,” said San Marcos coach Roger Kuntz. “It usually goes four or five [sets], and if somebody kind of endures at the end, then they are better, I guess. I don’t know who was better tonight, but it was a good match.”

San Marcos overcame an early deficit in set one and clinched the comeback 26-24 on a spike off the block and out of bounds by Willbanks. 

That momentum carried over into the second set as San Marcos jumped out to a 9-1 lead in set two on a kill by Aiden Pazier. Dos Pueblos never recovered from the early hole, and San Marcos took a 2-0 set lead on a kill by Wilson.

“It felt like each set, we gave up a couple serving runs that were pretty crucial against a really well-rounded and competitive San Marcos team,” said Dos Pueblos coach Ehren Hug. “When you play a competitive team like that and you give them anything like a free ball or something easy to deal with, their transition was really good tonight, so that bodes well for them.”

Set three started in much the same manner as set two. San Marcos took an 8-2 lead on a kill by Willbanks, but Dos Pueblos stormed back and evened the score at 12-12 on a kill by Grant Hughes. 

Hughes finished with a team-high 17 kills and also served as the Chargers’ primary setter for long stretches of the match.

“What doesn’t he do? There’s steam coming out of his ears all the time, and he’s just a fun kid to watch and must be even more fun to play with,” Hug said. “He’s a super intense competitor. Coming off his basketball season, he’s been in intense situations previously, so it’s great to watch him out there.”

An ace serve by Finn Hastings gave Dos Pueblos a 23-22 lead, and Wilson hit wide for San Marcos to put the Chargers ahead 24-22. Another kill by San Marcos middle blocker Pazier cut the Royals’ deficit to 24-23, but Hughes came up big again for Dos Pueblos and kept the match alive with a kill to force a fourth set.

It appeared Dos Pueblos might have enough magic to force a fifth set, but after a kill by Diesel Peerman evened the fourth set at 24-24, Willbanks responded with back-to-back kills to secure the victory for San Marcos, including a perfectly placed spike to the back corner that ended the match.

With the victory San Marcos improved to 2-0 in Channel League play. Both teams will compete in the Dos Pueblos Invitational, which will feature 30 high school teams Saturday at UCSB’s Thunderdome beginning at 8 a.m.

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