It was a rare occasion when the volleyball teams of Dos Pueblos and Santa Barbara highs faced each other for the CIF Southern Section Division 1A championship last Saturday. To make it a cross-town final, the Chargers and Dons had to travel all over the section and knock off contenders from three other counties-Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino-until they were the last teams standing out of 32.
Fans poured into UCSB’s Robertson Gym to see the third match of the year between the teams. The gym’s capacity of 2,600 was just enough to accommodate the crowd. It was sultry inside, befitting the heat generated by this rivalry. Dos Pueblos had the upper hand during the regular season, besting the Dons twice (3-1 and 3-2) to win the Channel League championship. Santa Barbara had hungered for this third shot: SB-DP III, the Ruckus at Rob Gym.
The Dons made the most of it, sweeping the Chargers by scores of 25-22, 25-22, and 25-19. Now, let the arguments begin as to who is number one. Even with a playoff, the issue is clouded.
Certainly the Dons were on top Saturday with the big trophy in their grip. “We knew this was our time,” senior setter Natalie Guerra said. “We deserved this. We got so close the last time we played them. I could never ask for anything better.”
Santa Barbara practiced long and hard in preparation for the match. “We wanted to go all-out and show what we can do,” said Mimi Cuttrell, the Dons’ leading hitter. “We had really tough practices. It’s amazing. The last five points were the best points of my life.”
Defense was the key to Santa Barbara’s triumph. Dos Pueblos brought tremendous firepower to the net with three big hitters, senior Caitlin Racich and junior twins Carly and Sam Wopat. The Dons absorbed their blows with rock-solid digging and passing by Katherine Keller, Eve Ettinger, and Emily Rottman.
“We played so well as a team,” Santa Barbara’s Coach John Gannon said. “We definitely dug balls better than they did.”
The Chargers were left to dig themselves out of an emotional hole. “It was a bummer to lose,” Racich said. “We had a really good season, but we didn’t bring our ‘A’ game. Every time we’ve played them, Santa Barbara won the first game. We couldn’t turn it around today.”
Carly Wopat said, “They definitely wanted it really bad. We already beat them twice. I still think we’re number one.”
Combining all the sets they played against each other, the Dons and Chargers are even at 6-6. Both teams went into the State Championships this week, but they’d have to pull some upsets to find their way to another rematch. In the first round, Santa Barbara was sent to face San Diego Section champion La Costa Canyon, and Dos Pueblos also was given a road match against Central Section power Clovis West.
The Chargers will try to recapture the momentum that drove them to Rob Gym. “We didn’t play with the rhythm we had all season,” Coach Dwayne Hauschild said after Saturday’s match. “I’m disappointed for all the fans. We didn’t give them enough to cheer about.”
THUNDER IN THE DOME: UCSB hoped the first sold-out basketball crowd at the Thunderdome in nine years would not be disappointed Friday night. The positive answer, in the form of a hair-raising din, came in the first half when the Gauchos took a 27-22 lead over No. 1-ranked North Carolina.
The Tar Heels seized back the lead moments later behind guard Ty Lawson-who has lightning in his heels, he’s so blindingly quick pushing the ball up court-but with 10 minutes to play, UCSB was still within single digits of the visitors. North Carolina ultimately prevailed 84-67, but as Gaucho junior Jesse Byrd said, “Even though it looks like a 20-point blowout on paper, if you were here, you know that’s not the case.”
Missing the excitement was Santa Ynez Valley resident Jimmy Connors, known for his tennis and his temper, who got into an altercation outside the Thunderdome and was arrested by Campus Police at game time. There is such a fixation on celebrities in this country that the Connors arrest drew far more attention in the news than the excellent college basketball game.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, and support your local teams.