Nicole Schuetz of Santa Barbara and Addison Low of Dos Pueblos meet at the net. | Credit: Victor Bryant

The grueling marathon that is league play has come to an end, and now the CIF Southern Section girls’ volleyball playoffs have arrived.

Out of the Channel League, Santa Barbara, San Marcos, and Dos Pueblos punched their tickets to the playoff by finishing in the top four of the league. 

Bishop Diego and Laguna Blanca finished in first place in the Tri-Valley and Frontier Leagues, respectively, to earn playoff berths as well. Now the time has come for each team to test themselves in single elimination tournaments to keep their seasons alive.

“We won [CIF] last year in Division 6, but we moved up two whole divisions, so I wasn’t sure how we would look going into that because that’s a pretty big jump. With the success of the season, we are looking ahead to playoffs with more anticipation and more hope,” said Santa Barbara High coach Kristin Hempy. The Dons took first in the Channel League with a 13-1 record. “You never want to underestimate any opponent. Anything can happen in any volleyball game. You take it one game at a time, but it definitely would be within our capabilities to make a decent push in the postseason for sure.”

Santa Barbara is seeded fifth in Division 4 and will host the Burroughs Bears of Burbank on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m.

San Marcos finished in second place in the Channel League and will travel to Hart, a team that has defeated the Royals twice already this season in the Division 3 playoff bracket.

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Dos Pueblos finished in fourth place in the Channel League and will have a tough matchup at Edison of Huntington Beach in Division 3 as well.

“We’re very excited to take on Edison High School. We know that they are a great program. We know that they are very athletic, but looking at how we have competed in the past against high-level teams, we play really well,” said Dos Pueblos coach Megan O’Carroll. “I think our girls rise to the occasion. We have the advantage of coming in as the fourth-place team, and maybe they might underestimate us a little bit, and we can definitely use that to our advantage.”

Bishop Diego is entering the playoffs with ample momentum after capturing a thrilling five-set victory over a short-handed San Marcos team in a non-league contest last week. The victory over the second-place team in the Channel League that plays in Division 3 bolds well for the Cardinals, who are looking to make a run in the Division 5 playoffs after winning a CIF championship in Division 7 last season.

The Cardinals host Mary Star of the Sea on Thursday at 6 p.m. The Stars are the third-place team out of the Del Ray League and boasted a 20-7 overall record.

“They seem to have it going on. They were a ranked team for a lot of the season, and they play a really tough schedule,” said Bishop Diego coach Dillan Bennett of Mary Star of the Sea. “I won’t call it a bad draw by any means, because again, we are playing two divisions higher than we were last season, so I think it will be a good test.”

Laguna Blanca will host Wildwood in the Division 7 playoffs, and Providence will host Faith Baptist in Division 9. All first-round matches are scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m.

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