A groundswell of talented Santa Barbara players has made for an exciting high school girls’ volleyball season that is nearing its climax as several local teams prepare for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
Dos Pueblos High stands alone at the top of the Channel League as outright champions for the first time since 2011 after overcoming worthy challenges from rivals San Marcos and Santa Barbara.
“We talked about how in past matches, we come out really hot in the first set and then we kind of lose a lot of our energy and let up,” said Dos Pueblos coach Megan O’Carroll following a crucial straight-set victory over San Marcos last week. “I challenged them to do it for a second set and to do it for a third set, and the answer every single time was ‘Yes, we got it.’”
The Charges are 27-5 overall, 9-1 in Channel League, and ranked No. 2 in CIF-SS Division 4. The combination of senior Portia Sherman, who is committed to the University of Hawai‘i to play beach volleyball, and junior Chloe Hoffman is tough to stop.
Dos Pueblos has also received excellent contributions from opposite Makeila Cervantes and middle blockers Lily Mires and Teagan Haley, who have punished opponents for concentrating on slowing Sherman and Hoffman. With experienced libero Erin Curtis and a poised setter in Natali Flint, the Chargers are primed to make noise in the playoffs.
However, Dos Pueblos did not make it through the Channel League unscathed as Santa Barbara High has undergone a stunning resurgence under first-year head coach Kristin Hempy.
The Dons defeated Channel League powers Dos Pueblos and San Marcos in the same week and are the No. 1–ranked team in CIF-SS Division 6. Santa Barbara’s (16-4 overall 8-2 Channel League) second-place finish in the Channel League is a great sign going into the playoffs and with solid all-around players Emma Zuffelato and Shae Delany, a CIF Championship is an attainable goal.
For San Marcos, late-season losses to Santa Barbara and Dos Pueblos derailed any chance at a Channel league title, but with experienced coaches Tina Brown and Dwayne Hauschild leading the way, the Royals can’t be discounted in the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs. Eloise McGibben gives the Royals a go-to player to set, and when push comes to shove, they are a tough team to beat.
In the Frontier League, Bishop Diego has asserted its dominance en route to a 21-7 overall record, including 9-0 in league play. In fact, the Cardinals have yet to drop a set in Frontier League play, a streak that has extended to 27 in a row.
According to coach Dillan Bennett, a talented group of girls and the ability to practice in the spring has allowed his program to flourish.
“We were one of the few schools that was able to practice through the pandemic. We organized an outdoor grass volleyball league and competed against schools that were willing to compete,” Bennett said. “We really haven’t taken much time off. While other teams were struggling to find court time and opportunities to improve, we were pretty successful in keeping the ball in the air.”
Bishop Diego is ranked No. 2 in CIF-SS Division 7 and has a non-league playoff tune-up schedule at No. 3–ranked Costa Mesa on Saturday. Bennett credits senior Alina Urzua, a three-year captain, for leading the team and getting everyone on the same page.
“She does it all for us. She is our best server; she is our best setter; she is one of our best hitters; she does a great job leading our team and keeping everybody on the same page with expectations,” said Bennett of Urzua. “I am really proud of the young lady she has become and how she has developed into a leader on our team.”
Bennett is also excited about the addition of Alina’s younger sister Eliana Urzua, who is a freshman that he believes has the ability to be a Division 1 college player.
The CIF-SS girls’ volleyball playoff brackets will go live on Saturday, October 16, at 10 a.m.