Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson gives Stanford bound outside hitter Alex Rottman his flowers on Senior Night. | Credit: Victor Bryant

It took five sets, but the Santa Barbara High boys’ volleyball team stood tall down the stretch to overcome a scrappy Windward team 25-21, 27-29, 25-20, 23-25,15-9 in a non-league contest on Tuesday night.

It was senior night for the Dons, and Alex Rottman made his presence felt in his last regular-season match at J.R. Richards gymnasium. Rottman finished with 33 kills and six aces, and Santa Barbara needed all of his statistical contributions to secure the victory.

“You have to give Windward a lot of credit. We knew coming in that they were going to be a really good team,” said Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson. “It was senior night. I wanted to get all my seniors in, and unfortunately Windward made us earn everything. We weren’t playing really good, clean volleyball, but we found a way to pull it off.”

After clinching set one on a spike down the line by Will Harmon, Santa Barbara ran into trouble in set two. A kill by Andreas Schuetz put Santa Barbara ahead 27-26, but Windward capitalized on the Dons’ mistakes to run off three straight points to even the match at one set apiece. 

Angus Ebeling was a key contributor for the Wildcats as he paced a balanced attack with a team-high 18 kills.

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The Dons took control midway through set three and took a 2-1 set lead on a spike through the block by Schuetz. 

In set four, Windward (18-8-3) turned up the defensive intensity and forced a fifth and final set following an ace serve by Jack Phelps.

“This is our first year getting to play Santa Barbara, and it’s really awesome to play such a high-caliber team,” said Windward coach Alexa Micek. “Windward is such a small school, so it’s just awesome to get the opportunity to compete against a volleyball powerhouse, and that result aside, win or lose, we are improving by getting to play this caliber of team.”

Santa Barbara looked like a completely different team in set five, especially defensively. A solo block by Schuetz put the Dons ahead 5-3, and another solo block by Rottman extended the Santa Barbara lead to 10-7. A cross-court spike by Harmon, who finished with 15 kills, clinched the match for Santa Barbara.

“We finally woke up. I kind of changed my lineup, moving Andreas Schuetz to the middle in game five, and I had Mason Rice on the outside,” Arneson said. “Our passing was a little shaky, so I thought maybe try something to build energy.”

The Dons (16-4-1 overall, 6-0 Channel League) will return to league play next week.

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