Santa Barbara High coach John Gannon repeated the mantra during every timeout: “This match is not over.” The Dons took his words to heart and fought off the Dos Pueblos Chargers in the third game of their girls’ volleyball showdown last week, amping up the noise in Santa Barbara’s J.R. Richards Gym. But the Chargers thwarted the change in momentum and finished off the Dons in four games, 25-22, 25-18, 23-25, and 25-20.
“This is why I play volleyball,” said Amanda Moriarty, who led the winners with 19 kills, “for this big crowd and for the enthusiasm.” Moriarty described herself as “a little soccer stud” before she entered high school. Now the 5’10” senior is a solid all-around volleyball player. Where did she get her athleticism? “It’s like hereditary from the NFL,” she said. Larry Moriarty, her father, played six seasons as a running back for the Houston Oilers and Kansas City Chiefs. Amanda saw him play only on film. “He was so competitive, huge, and aggressive,” she said.
Dos Pueblos coach Todd Garrett used the word “aggressive” to describe the way the Chargers play. “We swing hard,” he said. Their big hitter is 6’1” Taylor Racich with her whip of a left arm. But they also get some snap from (not so high) Sierra Hofstatter, who is 5’7” on her tiptoes. “She’s small, but she’s powerful,” Garrett said. “Sierra sees that block up there, and she’s going to swing as hard as she can and make that ball go somewhere else.”
Setter Tristan Racich, the smaller of the twin sisters, and Katie Spieler, a 5’5” defensive standout, are other key cogs for the Chargers. “Katie picks up everything,” Moriarty said. “Our passing is amazing.” All the DP starters are seniors. “We’re really close,” Hofstatter said. “There’s no tension on the court. When people might get mad at each other, we’re forgiving.”
The Chargers are closing in on their fourth consecutive Channel League championship, although an upset loss at Buena ended their league winning streak at 28 matches earlier this season. Santa Barbara is in second place, a game behind Dos Pueblos.
“They have special players,” said Gannon, whose Dons last beat the Chargers in the 2008 CIF championship match. “I really like my group. It’s unfortunate they haven’t gotten that signature win against Dos Pueblos.”
Santa Barbara will stage the Tournament of Champions on Friday and Saturday, October 28-29. Sixteen schools from throughout the state will participate, including the Dons, Dos Pueblos, and San Marcos. The action will begin Friday, October 28, at 11 a.m., when San Marcos, which defeated Buena for its first league triumph in three years, will face top-seeded Cathedral Catholic of San Diego. The tournament will culminate in the championship match Saturday, October 29, at 6:15 p.m.
BIG GAME: The 52nd Big Game spotlighted two young men who make you hold your breath every time they touch the football. Cheroke Cunningham, Santa Barbara High’s sophomore running back, was stymied early by a swarming San Marcos defense, but he flashed through every crack in the line during the second half and finished with 160 yards and four touchdowns in the Dons’ 35-21 victory. Andrew Thayer kept the Royals in the game with a brilliant 98-yard kickoff return, his second TD return of the year. Thayer, a slightly built (5’9” and 145 pounds) senior, blazed an angular trail through he middle of the field and kept his feet when the last Santa Barbara player tried to trip him up.
HIGH JINKS: There is a fine line between the clever and the boorish in sports fans’ behavior. At the Santa Barbara volleyball match, boys covered their bodies with paint, masks, and clothes in clashing colors — forest green for Santa Barbara’s “Scream Team” and a blueberry shade for DP’s “Blue Men.” During a break between games, the rival groups faced off, shooting imaginary arrows at each other in an amusing pantomime. Not so funny, at least to San Marcos, were the streakers and the troupe in drag that diverted attention from the halftime performance by the Royals’ band and dancers at the Big Game.
GAMES OF THE WEEK: For the first time in several years, Santa Barbara’s Dons are playing a football game with championship implications. They take a 4-3 record (1-0 in the Channel League) against 8-0 Ventura on Friday night, October 28, at Larrabee Stadium. … Cate visits Laguna Blanca School Saturday, October 29, at 3 p.m., in an eight-man football showdown.
HOOP TIME: UCSB guard Emilie Johnson saw a lot of productive playing time for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. They went 2-2, following two close losses with two blowout victories. Johnson will be on the floor Tuesday night, November 1, when UCSB hosts Vanguard University in an exhibition game at the Thunderdome, the public’s first look at the Gaucho women under new head coach Carlene Mitchell.