Oaks Christian outside hitter Emma Robinson takes a swing from the back row. | Credit: Victor Bryant

The San Marcos High girls’ volleyball team took the first two sets from Oaks Christian but could not complete the upset as the visiting Lions roared back to claim a 20-25, 20-25, 25-14, 25-19, 15-11 victory in a CIF Southern Section second-round match on Saturday afternoon at the Thunderhut.

The Royals came into the match as massive underdogs against third-seeded Oaks Christian, which boasts a 26-3 overall record and went undefeated at 10-0 in the Marmonte League, but the Royals played some of their best volleyball of the season in the first two sets and nearly pulled off an improbable victory.

“This is the team that we’ve seen in spurts, but it was at the right time, so it was really cool,” said San Marcos coach Dwayne Hauschild. “Unfortunately, they got a little bit better, and we got a little bit tense in games three and four.”

Eloise McGibben and Riley Green led the way for San Marcos with 16 kills apiece, and defensive specialist Lily Blankenhorn was a key contributor to the San Marcos defense, which simply would not let the ball drop early in the match.

The Royals jumped out to a 10-3 lead in set one and clinched a 1-0 set lead on a spike by McGibben.

In set two, McGibben came through with a massive solo block to finish off that set and put San Marcos on the brink of victory.

“We were attacking them pretty well in the first two games and they couldn’t get a reasonable pass to run their middle,” Hauschild said. “When they can run their middle, things get really quick, and that was 100 percent true.”

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The shaky passing that kept Oaks Christian from playing in-system completely turned around in set three. 

An ace serve by Lily Blakenhorn gave San Marcos a 6-2 lead in set three, but Oaks Christian closed the set on a 23-8 run capped off by a Brooklyn Stearns kill. 

In set four, San Marcos fell behind 9-2 on a Stearns block, but quickly began to cut into the deficit. An ace serve by Mia Miller followed by McGibben brought San Marcos within 20-19, but Oaks Christians scored the final five points of the set to force a fifth game.

“We started playing way more of our game. Faster tempo, aggressive, just not waiting for them to make mistakes and more of how can we earn every point that we can,” said Oaks Christian coach Julie Bennett of her team’s comeback. “They had us out of system so much that we weren’t able to play our fast game.”

In set five, Oaks Christian jumped out to a 5-2 lead on a kill by outside hitter Nicole Zake, and the Royals never recovered. A spike by Stearns clinched set five and the match for Oaks Christian 15-11.

Santa Barbara 3, Xavier Prep 0

The Dons overcame a four-hour drive and swept Xavier Prep 25-22, 25-17, 25-15 in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs. They will take on Pasadena Poly in the quarterfinals.

Bishop Diego 3, Valencia 2

The Cardinals advance to the CIF-SS Division 5 quarterfinals after defeating Foothill league runner-up Valencia 19-25, 25-20, 25-23, 15-25, 16-14.

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