#12 Nicole Schuetz delivered the match-clinching kill and was mobbed by her teammates postgame. | Credit: Victor Bryant

A crosstown girls’ volleyball matchup between defending CIF champions brought an abundance of intrigue to the Brick House gym on Thursday night.

A back and forth match shifted Santa Barbara High’s way late in the third set as the Dons defeated host Bishop Diego 25-16, 21-25, 27-25, 25-13.

“We had a battle on our hands. Bishop Diego showed up, and Eliana Urzua is a great, really talented player,” said Santa Barbara coach Kristin Hempy. “I’m really proud of them. When it came down to the wire, they stepped up.”

Santa Barbara won the CIF championship in Division 6 last season and as result moved up to Division 4. Bishop Diego won the CIF championship in Division 7 last season and moved up to Division 5, so both teams were eager to test themselves against quality competition.

“It was a good opening match for them. It was a match where they were challenged. It was a match that they had an opportunity to compete in,” said Bishop Diego coach Dillan Bennett of his team. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on, which is great. It’s nice to get tested in an early-season match against a defending CIF champion, but at the end of the day, making less errors and allowing the other team to play the game a little bit more would be ideal.”

Sophomore Eliana Urzua led the way for Bishop Diego with a match-high 22 kills. She was the most dominant player on the court, but the next-highest Bishop Diego player, Siena Urzua, only had five kills, so the Dons were able to lock in on Eliana as the match progressed.

Eliana Urzua finished with 22 kills despite being the focus of the Santa Barbara block. | Credit: Victor Bryant

The Dons were led by senior outside hitter Shae Delany, who finished with 15 kills and 22 digs. Emily Werner also chipped in eight kills and eight digs, while Gracie Meinzer contributed 10 digs, three kills, and 24 assists.

The match ultimately came down to the third set with both teams tied at one set apiece. Bishop Diego took a 23-20 lead on a kill by Eliana Urzua and reached set point at 24-21 after a Santa Barbara net violation. 

Augustine Wooten kept Santa Barbara alive with a kill, cutting the deficit to 24-22. From there, Santa Barbara libero/outside hitter Tessa De Albergaria took over at the service line with back-to-back aces to even the set at 24-24. 

A net violation by Santa Barbara on what appeared to be a Delany kill put Bishop Diego ahead 25-24, but Delany followed with consecutive kills to give the Dons a 26-25 lead. Santa Barbara clinched the set on a Bishop Diego lifting violation. 

“Both teams had opportunities to win, and both teams snatched opportunities to lose, and at the end it turned into a back-and-forth seesaw,” said Bennett of the third set. “It absolutely changes the match. I think if we close out set three, we are definitely a better team than 12 or 13 points in that fourth game.”

Bishop Diego will host the Cardinal Classic at UCSB’s Thunderdome on Saturday. The tournament will include nearly every team in Santa Barbara County. Pool play begins at 8:30 a.m.

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