East County Sports

Hawks can dig win over Firebirds



By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer 

SAN MARCOS – A roster dominated by freshmen is growing and moving in the right direction under a handful of seniors, allowing San Diego Christian College to post another women’s volleyball victory.

Junior outside hitter Jessica Pinasco fueled the offense with a match-best 18 kills, while senior Kayli Barrera paced the defense with a season-high 29 digs, allowing the visiting Hawks to tackle University of Saint Katherine for the second time this season. Game scores were 2-25, 25-20, 25-9, 20-25, 15-13, in a non-conference match held at Edenpark gymnasium in the San Marcos community of San  Elijo Hills. BOXSCORE

The defensive effort was especially solid, frustrating the Firebirds all Saturday (Feb. 6) afternoon.

“In a 5-set match, recording 100 digs is a rare item,” said Hawks head coach Gene Krieger. “We ended up with 98, so we came real close.”

Four players back-court reached double figures. Following Barrera’s 29 digs was Alexis DeBina-Bautis (17), while Ariana Velasquez and Ayanna Nunuha had 12 each.

When Saint Katherine fought back to take the fourth set, the senior leadership of San Diego Christian kept the youngsters composed in the tiebreaker.

“It was exciting,” said Barrera, who prepped at West Hills before playing at Grossmont College. “We took our two losses to The Master’s and Life Pacific very hard, so we made the effort to non-stop communicate, which made our transition game very impressive.”

The steady passing made life easy for setters Ariana Velasquez (31 assists) and Jewel McDonough (15), who was making her first appearance of the young campaign.

The same could not be said of Saint Katherine, especially in the middle sets when San Diego Christian took control. The Firebirds were spiking the ball all over the court, yet without much direction, so they kept hitting the Hawks blockers or the back would dig the ball or let it sail wide-to-the-side.

“We just stayed calm and not get all tense,” added Barrera. “We played our way of playing volleyball.”

Although Barrera is a senior, she will return for a fifth season because of waivers granted by both the NAIA and NCAA because of the pandemic. She is on track to graduate this fall, so will commence on her Masters in education in the fall.Added Krieger, “It’s great to have senior leadership like Kayli. They keep the freshmen calm, learning how to act in the extra game.

“Now we have a winning record because of it. We’re excited about our future.”

In the final set, Saint Katherine gained seven opportunities to tie the game. However, SDCC was able to “side-out” each time and re-gain the serve. Finally, it was a cross-court winner by Pinasco which completed the triumph.

In all, five Hawks registered season-bests, including 12 kills by Isabella Marshall and three service aces by Barrera.

Added Barrera, “In Game 5, we knew our game plan and stuck to it to win. It’s great to work with this young team and watch them grow.”

Next up for San Diego Christian will be re-match with The Master’s on Tuesday (Feb. 9). The balance of the week is now vacant as consecutive matches with La Sierra (Feb. 11 & 13) have been canceled due to the pandemic.

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