Mikey Denver puts away one of his 13 kills. | Credit: Victor Bryant

Coming off an outright Channel League title the Santa Barbara High boys’ volleyball team began the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs with a 29-27, 25-20, 25-21 victory over Long Beach Poly on Thursday night at JR Richards gymnasium.

Despite some sloppy play and a back-and-forth first set, the Dons were able to take control of the match behind an efficient performance by middle blocker Mikey Denver, who racked up 13 kills with no hitting errors.

“Mikey is the best middle in our league and in our town,” said Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson. “When we get Mikey going, we can spread out the offense a lot better and create one-on-one situations.”

The Dons were in danger of dropping set one and giving the visiting Jackrabbits a major boost of confidence after falling behind 16-14. However, Denver and Luke Zuffelato combined on a block that brought Santa Barbara with a point at 16-15, and a Denver kill evened the first set at 16-16.

“[Long Beach Poly] came ready to go, and we were a little flat-footed, playing tight and not playing free,” said Arneson. “In the playoffs, no matter what division you are in, all these teams are here for a reason, so it’s a do-or-die situation for our kids. It was definitely not our best, not our best performance, but hopefully we can learn from this and understand what we need to do in order to advance to the next round.”

Long Beach Poly held a 25-24 lead and served for match point, but a serving error gave the Dons an opening to steal the set. Back-to-back kills by Denver and Raglan Kear, who finished it off with a powerful cross-court spike, gave the Dons a 1-0 set lead. 

Kear has been Santa Barbara’s primary weapon on the outside this season. He didn’t have a big match statistically against the Jackrabbits, finishing with seven kills, but his presence attracted the attention of the Long Beach Poly block, which opened the door for his teammates to flourish.

Will Harman led the way for Santa Barbara with a team-high 15 kills and three aces.

In set two, Santa Barbara overcame an early 5-2 deficit and clinched a 2-0 set lead on a dump by setter Ford Harman.

The Dons jumped out to an 8-4 lead in set three when Denver and Ford Harman combined for a block and never looked back. A Will Harman kill clinched the match for Santa Barbara.

“We’ve been battling all year. We’re a very young team, and we’ve been trying to find ourselves,” said Long Beach Poly coach Sid Davidson. “We were just happy to actually participate [in the playoffs] and compete against [Santa Barbara].”

Santa Barbara will host Aliso Niguel in a second-round match on Saturday.

San Marcos, 3;  La Cañada, 0

The Royals defeated visiting La Cañada 25-11, 25-14, 25-14 to win a first-round match in the CIF-SS Division 2 playoff. San Marcos will host Anaheim Canyon on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Newbury Park, 3; Laguna Blanca, 0

Laguna Blanca had to travel to Newbury Park for a first-round match in the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs, despite winning the Tri-Valley League. The Owls lost in three close sets 25-22, 25-21, 25-20.

Dos Pueblos, 3; Westlake, 1

The Chargers survived a trip to Westlake in the opening round of the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs. The set scores were 25-13, 18-25, 25-17, 25-12.


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