The Santa Barbara High boys volleyball team had a chance to make a statement in its first match of the season.
After trailing for the majority of the first set, the Dons rallied to capture the first game and held set point at 24-19 in the second frame.
Santa Barbara failed to capitalize on its quintuple match point, losing the second set and eventually losing in five sets to visiting Newbury Park by set scores of 20-25, 28-26, 25-21, 22-25, 15-13.
“That’s growing pains,” Santa Barbara coach Chad Arneson told the News-Press after the loss.
“Unfortunately we had plenty of swings but we have got to learn how to finish. I think that game two loss kind of got to us a little bit and our kids have got to keep their heads up and focus on one play at a time and not get so down on each other. But we did some good things.”
One of the players who did a lot of good things Wednesday night at J.R. Richards Gymnasium was Sam Meister.
The junior outside hitter totaled a team-high 26 kills for the Dons and hit .488 for the night. He also added a team-high three aces in the loss.
Sophomore opposite Alex Rottman provided 13 kills, though he also had five errors that hurt his hitting percentage. Senior outside hitter Riley Roach rounded out the double-digit kill earners for Santa Barbara, as he registered 12 to go along with a pair of aces.
The Dons started the match off slow, trailing 12-6 in the first set. They would eventually catch the Panthers at 15-all thanks to three kills from Meister, another from Rottman and an ace from Roach.
Santa Barbara then ended the frame on a 10-5 run, with the final kill coming from Roach.
In the second set, the Dons were in command for the majority, usually leading by more than three points throughout.
A service error by Newbury Park’s Chip Baldwin then gave Santa Barbara a 24-19 lead. The Dons committed three attack errors, all by Rottman, and a pair of kills by the Panthers suddenly tied the game at 24-all. Santa Barbara again held set point at 25 and 26, but couldn’t capitalize either time, eventually falling 28-26.
“A lot of times, you have to be more lucky than good and sometimes things go your way,” Newbury Park coach Jorge Ostrovsky said.
“I just told them there is no five-point play, just take it one point at a time and let them make mistakes, give them the opportunity to screw up and once you get to 23, they really start getting nervous and that’s what happened.”
In the third set, and really throughout the contest, Santa Barbara committed a litany of violations, giving free points to Newbury Park.
And, when it wasn’t, then the Panthers’ Luke Benson was crushing its defense as he totaled 21 kills, six of which came in the third set alone which saw Newbury Park win 25-21.
The Dons offense was also out of sync, hitting into the block of Tony Hahn one too many times.
Hahn finished with 11 blocks for the Panthers.
“We got very predictable just running the pins very often and we gotta work on our hitting from the back row because we went over a lot and that’s just little mistakes,” Roach said.
In the fourth set, Santa Barbara found a little more success in its offense and was able to jump out to an early 7-3 lead. A pair of kills from Roach late in the game gave the Dons a 24-20 lead, but again they couldn’t finish it off, allowing the Panthers to get two more points.
Finally, Newbury Park committed an attack error forcing a fifth set.
In the final frame, Santa Barbara was in command up until 7-7, when Newbury Park took the lead and never looked back.
Santa Barbara hit into Hahn’s block three straight times and found itself down 11-7.
“We have to work on our passing. If we get those passes up to the net for our setters, we can run more either a back one or just mix it up more,” Roach said.
Trailing 14-10, the Dons tried one last chance to come back as a kill by Meister sent him back to the service line. Meister served tough and forced two Newbury Park violations to pull his team within one at 14-13, but the Panthers finished it off with a kill from Baldwin.
“It was a good learning experience for us. We have a sophomore starting and a few juniors so we have a pretty young team so it’s good to get that experience. It was good to go five and get that game experience but we have to close,” Roach said.
Santa Barbara will be on the road to face Mira Costa Friday in its second game of the season.