Five days after going toe-to-toe for a CIF-SS Division 2 title, the boys’ volleyball teams from Santa Barbara High and Huntington Beach struck again at JR Richards Gym at the CIF Southern California Regional Semifinals.
Like the previous encounter, the game went through five intense sets, only this time Huntington Beach snatched the win to advance to the regional final on Saturday. The Oilers overcame a 2-1 deficit in sets and won 25-22, 18-22, 19-25, 25-21 and 15-13 to hand host Santa Barbara and the Southern Division 2 champions their only loss of the season.
“I told Chad Arneson (Santa Barbara coach) that if we played each other 20 times, we’d probably go five at a time,” Huntington Beach coach Craig Bazanti said. “I think both teams are equal with different strengths. It’s just a great match.”
One of the Oilers’ strengths of the night was the beating and blocking of Trent Dufner. He finished his team with 15 kills and eight blocks. He was especially big in the fifth set, holding three balls for points and stopping four kills.
“I wasn’t sure Trent was going to play,” said Bazanti. “He came out of the game on Tuesday (five-set win over La Costa Canyon), had a hamstring injury and a calf strain. We weren’t sure if he would play. But he’s a soldier. He said, ‘This is my last year and I’m not going to sit down, I’m going to chase it.'” “
Putting a kill by Douphner followed by a block with Liam Phinizy for the Team Oilers on match point, 14-11.
Sam Meister joined the Dons team, and Andrew Douglas and Andreas Schweitz united in one block to reach 14-13.
A poor set by the Oilers gave Santa Barbara a chance to tie the score, but Cayman Lafontaine dug a blast by Maestre, and setter Will Lawler went to Venezi for the final kill.
“The most important thing is that we served and we did better tonight,” said Bazanti. “We stopped chasing them with the fast serve, put the balls in play, let the block do the work and let our defense do the work.”
Arneson thought Huntington Beach played better in the rematch.
“I thought they played a very consistent and bug-free game,” he said. “We’ve had some uncharacteristic mistakes, but that’s part of the game. Give Huntington a lot of credit. They came ready to go, and they caught on.”
Sam Meister raises for one of his 24 kills in Santa Barbara’s five-set loss to Huntington Beach. (Photos by Gary Kim/Nozuk)
“We were ready to go, but unfortunately we didn’t play our ‘A’ game in all five games.”
The Dons led 19-17 in the first set, but were unable to finish the match as Douphner packed Huntington Beach with a pair of blocks to put the Oilers in a 22-20 lead.
Maester’s murder brought Al Dons into one, 23-22. But Lawler created a singles stand for Phinizy to make it 24-22, and Dons fouled a knock to end the set.
Dylan Foreman made a spark off the bench with a few blocks and was killed during the second set. Dons opened on 21-16.
“He’s got a great demeanor, and I give a lot of credit for being our little sparkler in that match and throughout the whole match,” Arneson said of Foreman.
Alex Rottman put on a great play by taking the ball off the net killing Meister for a 22-17 advantage. Matt Suh followed him with an ace, merging Schweitz and Douglas into a block to lead 24-18. The group ended with an error in the Oilers service.
In the third set, killing Meister from Block 17-16 gave a lead they would never give up.
The UCSB-linked Meister has blasted 24 kills. Rattmann scored 13, Schweitz added nine, and Douglas added six.
The fourth set is where things began to unravel for the Dons family. They were leading 8-4 before a two-hit error resulted in Huntington Beach’s 4-0 victory.
The score remained tight. Santa Barbara’s last lead was 20-19 before being outdone by 6-1. Three of Huntington Beach’s points were the result of Dones’ fouls.
Santa Barbara trailed 8-5 in the fifth set. The Oilers continued to make plays as Jack Hopkins and Lawler came in with big digs, and Dufner played hard at the net by blocking and hitting him.
Douphner got a touch of the block and Block followed to put the Oilers at 14-11.
The Dons got two points but were unable to finish the match.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get some of the breaks we had hoped for,” Arneson said. “You have Matt (Suh) serving at the age of 13-14, we drill and you set Sam. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to put the ball away, or at least equalize it at 14 and press it.”
The Dons (15-1) have achieved a lot this season. They have won 15 games in a row, won the Channel League and claimed their first CIF-SS title since 1992.
“Children should have their heads held high and be proud of what they have accomplished. I will take that any day,” Arneson said.