Local team finishes second at Far West Qualifier
The Junior National Boys Volleyball Qualifier in Reno resulted in a big dance party — as well as a mad dash home — for the Santa Barbara Coast Volleyball Academy’s 18-and-under team.
Santa Barbara High’s members of the nine-player team will be able to attend both their senior prom and July’s Junior Nationals in Kansas City after finishing second in the Northern California Far West Qualifier on Sunday.
They were also able to make it back to town in time to help the Dons beat rival San Marcos High in Monday’s Channel League championship showdown.
“I am humbled by the maturity and composure our boys displayed,” coach David Rottman said. “The teams we faced were of the highest caliber.”
The team entered the Northern Region qualifier since the one in Las Vegas would have conflicted with Santa Barbara High’s prom.
“Given the many restrictions that kids have had since the pandemic, the team decided the seniors should attend prom and take the risk of qualifying in Reno,” Rottman said. “Only two bids would be granted amongst a very challenging field of teams.”
Six members of the team — Andrew Douglas, Ford Harman, Sam Meister, Alex Rottman, Andreas Schuetz and Matt Suh — attend Santa Barbara High. Also playing for Santa Barbara Coast were Dos Pueblos’ Kayode Lovejoy-Hall and Sean Ortiz, as well as Arroyo Grande’s Makai Lipson.
Coast advanced to Sunday’s three-team gold pool, needing at least a second-place finish to earn the bid to nationals. It lost to Northern California’s PacRim 25-20, 25-23 to open the final round of games, leading to a must-win match against NCVC.
“It was our fourth-consecutive match without a break,” Rottman pointed out. “NCVC had knocked off the tournament’s No. 1 seed, Bay to Bay, to advance to the gold pool.”
Coast trailed most of the first set before pulling out a 26-24, 25-16.
“Even when we were down, we continued with an incredibly efficient side-out game and found a way to manufacture real points, and eventually important wins,” Rottman said “Not a single player on this team failed to show up. Our outsides Meister and Alex (Rottman) were beyond fantastic.”
Advancing to the tournament’s final rounds did force the team to miss its flights back to Santa Barbara.
“Several of the players and parents rented a van to get back in time for the Santa Barbara High School match — and class — versus San Marcos on Monday night,” Rottman said. “Others were flying on Monday morning to get to the important Channel League match versus the Royals.”
Suh, who will be playing in “an unofficial record” eighth Junior Nationals in July, spearheaded Coast’s defense, he said. Meister and Rottman provided the left-side offense. Ortiz and Douglas manned the middle while Lipson handled the setting. Schuetz contributed five solo blocks from his opposite position.
Meister and Rottman showed no arm fatigue on Monday, pounding 25 and 20 kills, respectively, in Santa Barbara High’s four-set win over San Marcos in their Channel League championship showdown.
Schuetz and Douglas added eight kills apiece. Harman’s serving and right-side defense and Suh’s libero play (17 digs) were also on point, Dons’ coach Chad Arneson said.
Santa Barbara also swept Dos Pueblos on Wednesday. The Chargers’ Ortiz and Lovejoy-Hall had a challenging schedule of their own, returning from Reno to play for DP on three consecutive nights.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these boys,” Rottman said.