#5 Alex Rottman led the way for Santa Barbara with 33 kills. | Credit: Gary Kim

A monster performance by Alex Rottman and clutch play down the stretch boosted the Santa Barbara High boys’ volleyball team to a thrilling 25-20, 26-28, 25-27, 25-16, 15-11 victory over crosstown rival San Marcos on Thursday night at J.R. Richards gymnasium.

First place in the Channel League was on the line, and the visiting Royals gave Santa Barbara all they could handle throughout as both teams were desperate for victory. 

“I keep telling our guys we’ve got to keep pulling on the same rope. Alex Rottman is obviously our best player. He is such a great team player, and the kids love playing with him,” said Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson. “It’s definitely a good win for us. We’ll enjoy it, enjoy our spring break a little bit, hopefully get rested, and realize it’s going to be a dogfight for the rest of the season.”

Rottman finished with a game-high 33 kills, six aces and five blocks in what can only be described as a transcendent performance. The 6′6″ senior was nearly unblockable despite receiving considerable attention from San Marcos. 

“We definitely had to fight for that one; [San Marcos] played an amazing game,” Rottman said. “It was more of a mental game for us. We didn’t play our best physical game, but we came together as a team and pulled through.”

After cruising in the fist set, the Dons took an 8-1 lead in set two after a long serving run by Rottman. It appeared Santa Barbara was on its way to an easy sweep, but San Marcos battled back.

The Royals evened the score 20-20 when Santa Barbara opposite Will Harman hit wide and went on to claim the set, 28-26, on a spike through the block by Jack Wilson.

Wilson is only a sophomore, but he finished with 14 kills and did not shy away from the big moments as San Marcos mounted a comeback.

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“It was a big one for both teams, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team, to tell you the truth,” said San Marcos coach Roger Kuntz. “We’ve been waiting for this opportunity. I made our preseason schedule tough this year on purpose, and I think it really paid off going into this match. We didn’t let up throughout the whole match, and I thought we grinded and played with a lot of heart.”

Set three was back-and-forth throughout, but San Marcos finished strong and took a 2-1 set lead when Wilson tapped the ball over the net and found the floor after his initial spike was blocked back to him. 

With the match slipping away Santa Barbara regained control in set four behind the hot hitting of Andreas Schuetz, who racked up six of his 15 kills in the set to force a fifth and final set. 

The fight set featured nine ties and eight lead changes. Santa Barbara built momentum late in the set beginning with a kill by Rottman that increased its lead to 12-10. Ford Harman followed with an ace serve that increased the lead to 13-10. 

After Rottman hit long, closing San Marcos’ deficit to 13-11, Rottman unleashed a hard spike off the block and out of bounds to give Santa Barbara the match point at 14-11. Schuetz followed with a cross-court spike that secured the victory for Santa Barbara.

Zach Willbanks led San Marcos with 18 kills. San Marcos setter Hansen Streeter had a nice match spreading the ball to his attackers and finished with 49 assists. 

With the victory, Santa Barbara improves to 3-0 in Channel League play, and San Marcos falls to 2-1.

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