It sounds like the Dos Pueblos High girls are cheering for Utah when they break their huddle during a volleyball match, but actually they are shouting, “UTAW!”
“It means unleash the animal within,” explained Taylor Racich, the Chargers’ leading hitter. Between points, Racich seems to unleash the puppy within, as she bounds among her teammates, all smiles and slap-happy hands. But when it’s time to spike the ball, often on a set from her twin sister, Tristan, there is a ferocious intensity to the swipe of Taylor’s left arm. She recorded 21 kills last week when the Chargers closed in on their third consecutive Channel League championship, defeating the Santa Barbara High Dons in four games before a raucous crowd at DP’s Sovine Gym. The scores were 27-25, 25-23, 13-25, and 27-25.
Dos Pueblos faced a gut check in the fourth game, after the Dons had seized the momentum with a blow-out win in the third. There were long, desperate rallies down the stretch. A hit off the block by Dani Rottman gave the Dons a chance to serve for the game at 25-24, but the Chargers drew even when senior Ciena Colburn made a kill in the middle. “I’m so proud of her,” Taylor said. “She ripped that ball.” The Chargers added two more points for the match.
Taylor, a junior, is the only returning starter from last year’s CIF championship team. Those Chargers sent a bevy of players off to college scholarships, including twin towers Carly and Sam Wopat (Stanford) and Sammie Brown (Notre Dame). “Last year we were physically so strong,” said Taylor, the tallest Charger at 6′1″. “Now we’re proving it doesn’t matter how big you are. Our team is really connected this year.”
Every time the Chargers and Dons face off, it connects the whole volleyball community, which comes out in force to watch the area’s most talented players go at it. In the second game, Taylor smoked a ball that hit her club teammate, Santa Barbara senior Eve Ettinger, in the face. “That was a shocker,” Ettinger said. “Oh, my gosh, it was a hard hit; I felt sorry; I love you,” Racich said, “but we didn’t get the kill.” The Dons saved the ball after it caromed off Ettinger and scored the point.
The local teams have been promoted to the CIF’s 1-AA Division. Dos Pueblos is currently ranked number seven. The Chargers lost in four games last Saturday to number-one Harvard-Westlake, also the state’s top-ranked team. They could get another shot at the Wolverines this weekend in the Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions, hosted by the Dons.
Besides Harvard-Westlake, the tournament’s 16-team field will include the state’s number-two (La Costa Canyon) and number-three (San Jose Presentation) teams. Dos Pueblos opens against Cathedral Catholic at 12:45 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 29), and Santa Barbara faces Newport Harbor at 4:15 p.m. The action will continue up to the championship match starting at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 30).
GAMES OF THE WEEK: Santa Barbara High visits Dos Pueblos at 7 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 29), in round two of the crosstown football rivalries. Bishop Diego hosts a Frontier League showdown with Grace Brethren, 7 p.m. on Saturday at La Playa Stadium. … It’s all happening on the road for UCSB this weekend. Big West championships will be on the line when the 19th-ranked Gaucho men’s soccer team plays at seventh-ranked UC Irvine (Sat., 8pm) and the women’s volleyball team visits Cal State Fullerton (Fri.) and Long Beach State (Sat.).
COLLEGE HOOPS: Westmont gets the basketball season under way Friday night against CSU Maritime, 7:30 p.m. at Murchison Gym. Next week, the Warriors will take on the big boys in exhibition games at UCLA (Thur., Nov. 4) and St. John’s in New York (Sat., Nov. 6). In the latter game, Westmont coach John Moore will match wits with his brother-in-law, former UCLA coach Steve Lavin. … UCSB will host exhibition games next Thursday (women versus Cal State Monterey Bay) and Friday (men versus Master’s College).
FOOT TRAFFIC: Signs have been posted and letters delivered to inform residents about the Santa Barbara International Marathon and Half-Marathon on Saturday, November 6. Approximately 4,000 runners will be starting at 6:30 a.m., the marathoners at Dos Pueblos High and the half-marathoners at Tucker’s Grove. They will finish at S.B. City College’s La Playa Stadium. There will be road and lane closures to ensure their safety. Information is available at SBIMarathon.com.
WORLD SERIES: Former UCSB baseball star Michael Young has been a model of steadiness throughout his 11-year major league career with the Texas Rangers. The entire ballclub followed the third baseman’s lead this year, and now they are on the cusp of a World Series championship. But I’ve got a feeling San Francisco is the team of destiny: I’ll take the Giants in six games, who may finally give their fans a banner to wave at the Dodgers (who have five weathered banners).