DP fourth, Dons sixth in TOC

To be the best, you have to beat the best, and the Dos Pueblos girls volleyball team is trying to make it happen.

The Chargers, ranked No. 1 in CIF Division I-A, had their opportunity on Saturday at the Tournament of Champions, having won a pair of matches on Friday to earn a semifinal berth against the country’s No. 2 team in Archbishop Mitty.

But after a loss to the Monarchs sent them to the third-place match, where they ended up losing to Long Beach Wilson, the Chargers were content to look at the larger picture after their fourth-place result.

“There’s a lot of buzz about DP. The past few years we’ve gotten a lot better and our program has improved,” said all-tournament selection Carly Wopat, who has led the Chargers to the front of the Channel League this season and a 21-5 overall record after Saturday’s losses.

Dos Pueblos lost to Mitty in the semifinal match 26-24, 25-17, 25-21. Carly Wopat had 13 kills and sister Sam had eight in the match. Sammie Brown had 10 digs with four kills and a block, but it was one play in particular that really caught the eye.

The Chargers were facing game point in the first set with the Monarchs up 24-21. The Wopats got up for a block to make it 24-22, and on the next point Brown made a fantastic one-armed dig of a ball that was rocketed at her in the back right. She then got the set, went up and put down an authoritative kill from the back row. She would have another pair of digs two points later, but Mitty eventually pulled out the set.

“I almost cried,” joked assistant coach Tina Brown about her daughter’s highlight-reel dig/kill combo.

Against Wilson, the game scores were 27-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-23.

“You’re playing the No. 2 and No. 12 teams in the nation. You have your work cut out for you,” prefaced coach Brown, who was interim coach this weekend while Dwyane Hauschild was out of town. “To play that kind of competition back to back is great for us.”

The TOC, hosted by the Santa Barbara Dons, has a 16-team field stacked with some of the state’s top programs. Santa Barbara, ranked No. 2 in Division I-A behind DP, lost on Friday and was playing for a fifth-place finish on Saturday.

The Dons rebounded from the previous night’s quarterfinal loss to Long Beach Wilson with a morning win over Newport Harbor before falling to Torrey Pines in the fifth-place match.

“Going 2-2 in this tournament is really good,” said Santa Barbara coach John Gannon, who was especially pleased with the Newport win, it being the first time Gannon has beaten the school in his 10 years of coaching.

All-tournament team selection Emily Rottman led the Dons, coming up with 17 kills and 13 digs against Torrey Pines alone.

“She’s a solid all-around player,” described  Gannon. “She doesn’t get up too high, doesn’t get down too low, she just plays the game really well.”

As for setter Natalie Guerra, she played through a strained hamstring suffered Friday night, frequently grimacing after points but still getting balls to hitters like Rottman, Hadley Simmons and Mimi Cuttrell.

“It’s not that bad. I work through it when I’m playing and I try to keep off of it during off-plays,” said Guerra with ice packs on her left thigh and lower back.

With only three games left in Channel League play, the Dons are trying to find some momentum.

“We’ve been off for the last two weeks but we’ve started to play better,” Cuttrell offered.  “We’re getting it back right now but we have to play all together.”

Archbishop Mitty, which the Dons fell to in their tournament in September, ended up as champion after beating defending champion Mira Costa in the final 25-23, 25-22, 25-27, 25-16. Mitty’s Rachel Williams was named tournament MVP.

Dos Pueblos’ Brown joined Carly Wopat on the all-tounrnament team.