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Ventura edges Vaqueros in close 5-setter

Kate Richardson was strong in the middle with eight kills. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)
Kate Richardson was strong in the middle with eight kills. (Photo by Ken Sciallo/Sevilla Photography)

Ventura outlasted SBCC 3-2 on Wednesday night in a WSC North women's volleyball opener at the Sports Pavilion. The scores were 25-19, 19-25, 26-24, 17-25, 15-9.

It was the second straight five-set loss for the six-time defending WSC champion Vaqueros (2-9, 0-1). The Pirates improved to 9-3 and 1-0.

The 2-hour, 21-minute marathon was a tense back-and-forth affair with both teams scoring 102 points.

Jacque Ortegon had a season-high 12 kills and hit .478. Kenzie Garrison recorded her fifth double-double with 10 kills and 14 digs. Middle hitter Grace Trocki had nine kills, three blocks and five aces. Jenny Sims had nine kills and 11 digs while Kate Richardson added eight kills.

Ava Geyer, making her first start at libero, racked up a season-high 25 digs. Danielle Hewitt had 16 digs and a season-best 45 assists.

"We played well the last couple of sets," said Garrison, a 5-9 sophomore from Sun Valley, Idaho. "I think we could have worked on being more disciplined on defense and blocking."

The Vaqueros erased an early 7-3 deficit in the second set, going on a 14-5 run and taking a 17-12 advantage on a Garrison kill to the back corner. They trailed 19-14 and 23-20 in the third set, then rallied to tie it at 24 on a Richardson blast to the back line. Ventura prevailed 26-24 on a wide Vaquero serve and a kill by Kasie Spencer.

SBCC played its best volleyball in the fourth set, jumping ahead 5-1, 13-5 and 19-11. Trocki pounded an overpass off a VC player's head for the 24th point and Santa Barbara won the set 25-17 on a wide kill by the Pirates.

Ventura took command in the decisive fifth set, as SBCC served two balls out and fell behind 6-2 on a kill by Morgan Gallagher. The Vaqueros got within three at 11-8, then made two more long serves. Kelly Rodriguez capped the 15-9 victory with an ace serve.

"It was a good battle in the conference opener but we made too many errors when it counted," said SBCC coach Ed Gover. "Serving let us down in key situations. They played OK and we played just a little below that.

"Ava earned the start at libero with strong practices and she did an outstanding job. She held her composure and then got a little nervous in the fifth set. Her passing was nice and she had good chemistry out there."

It's always tougher when you fall behind early in the fifth set.

"Falling behind in the fifth is never a good thing," Gover noted. "You have to struggle and if you're not putting pressure on them with your serves, it's even worse. We let them off the hook a couple of times with our missed serves and that made it hard to catch up."

Gover praised the play of Richardson, the Vaqueros' 6-foot middle blocker.

"Kate has been outstanding lately," he said. "She deals with everything that comes her way and has a positive attitude. I thought Ava played well. I think Dani tries really hard and she's still a young freshman setter who's learning how to be a college setter."

The Vaqueros will travel to Hancock on Friday for a WSC match at 6 p.m.