Chargers fall one step short of state title match

If they were going to end their season short of a state title, this was the best way to do it.

Dos Pueblos’ girls volleyball team got to bow out in front of a capacity home crowd at Sovine Gym in Tuesday’s CIF State Tournament regional championship match, succumbing to Newport Harbor in a five-set thriller 23-25, 25-16, 25-20, 18-25, 15-10.

In a matchup of teams that play at a remarkably high level, it was the most basic facet of the game that made the difference.

“We go from the basis that this is a simple game — pass, set, hit — and the first word in that is pass. We did not pass very strongly,” said coach Todd Garrett.

Dos Pueblos senior Sammie Brown takes a swing.

Dos Pueblos senior Sammie Brown takes a swing.

Newport Harbor (31-6), the CIF-SS Division I-AA champion, was led by UCSB-bound middle blocker Katey Thompson, who put away 25 kills. Sophomore setter Cinnamon Sary was able to turn even the sour passes into sweet sets en route to 54 assists.

Division I-A champion Dos Pueblos (32-3), meanwhile, got 14 kills apiece from Carly Wopat, Sam Wopat and Sammie Brown. Sally Yingst added 13 put-aways with 15 digs, and Sam Wopat had a team-high 16 digs.



Carly Wopat had put down 16 kills on 18 swings on Saturday against Clovis West, but the Sailors held the Stanford-bound star to a more modest average on Tuesday. Wopat was still leaping over everyone else and crushing the ball, but her 14 kills came on 35 swings.

“We just tried to channel the ball to our diggers. She’s really good, so we were just trying to serve tough and make it hard for them to set her. When they did, we just tried to channel it to our defense,” said Thompson.

The Chargers fell into a 12-7 hole in the fifth frame, but knew that it was far from over. After all, just over a month ago they trailed the Sailors 18-24 on the same hardwood in a set during the Tournament of Champions before rattling off eight straight points to win it 26-24.

“I don’t care if we were down 14-0 in that fifth game, we weren’t going to go down without a fight. All you can do is focus on the next point,” said Brown.

On the very next point, Carly Wopat blasted a ball the was dug up by a Sailors defender. When it came back over, however, Brown brilliantly sent a set over to the back corner of the Sailors’ side to win the point. The Notre Dame-bound senior followed it up with an untouched ace to shrink Newport’s lead to 12-9, but Thompson fired back with two kills over the next three points and the match ended on a roof by her and Kirby Burnham.

The building was going bananas from the get-go, which one would think might have rattled the visitors. But the Sailors drove up early on Tuesday afternoon, doing some warm-ups at Santa Barbara High’s gym, going to see the movie “Blindside” together and having dinner at Palazzio — a must-stop for the team when they play in Santa Barbara.

Yes, that’s the place with the gigantic portions and the all-you-can-eat garlic rolls that turn into concrete in your stomach, but longtime coach Dan Glenn made sure to regulate the meal.

Dos Pueblos' Kelcey Chaffin (9) and Sally Yingst go up to block as Sailors sophomore Cinnamon Sary dishes out a set.

Dos Pueblos' Kelcey Chaffin (9) and Sally Yingst go up to block as Sailors sophomore Cinnamon Sary dishes out a set.

“Coach gives us a limit. We can only have three of those rolls per person. It happens every time we come to Santa Barbara,” joked Thompson.

Consecutive kills by Brown and Carly Wopat put DP up 18-14 and forced the Sailors to take their first timeout in the first set. Yingst had two kills and an ace over the next seven points to force another Newport timeout with the hosts up 22-17, and DP held off a late charge as Sam Wopat mashed a left-side kill at a hard angle to close it out.

She hit another bomb early in the second frame, but it was dug up and sent back over the net. Carly Wopat then went up expecting to hammer it straight back down, but Thompson was there for a solo block. Burnham put away three kills over the next four points before Brown began to get DP back in rhythm. She finished with an impressive six kills in the set, but Sary started dishing out lightning-fast sets that the Charger defense had trouble adjusting to. In particular, the slide-set began to puzzle the Chargers, who let the game slip away. It ended with Thompson putting away a slide from the right side.

Thompson had four kills in the opening eight points of the third set, as the Sailors took an 8-0 lead and never looked back. She put away eight balls in the frame, and Newport got six points off of the slide-set. DP sophomore Taylor Racich was untouchable for a few moments in the middle of the game, nabbing two straight kills followed by consecutive aces, but it wasn’t enough.

Dos Pueblos senior Karina Evans goes up for a block against Newpoert Harbor's Katey Thompson

Dos Pueblos senior Karina Evans goes up for a block against Newport Harbor's Katey Thompson

Sary was able to dish out seemingly whichever type of set she wanted to her hitters, even on less-than-perfect passes.

“She didn’t play when we played them last time. For a sophomore, she’s got the goods. She’s really good,” said Garrett. “She did an amazing job tonight. We just couldn’t get our middles over to her sets. Even though we knew where they were going with it we just couldn’t get there.”

Carly Wopat brought the momentum back to DP’s side with just one swing early in the fourth set, detonating a ball from the left side that tattooed a Newport Harbor defender right in the face with a loud smack. Sam Wopat put down four authoritative kills and an ace over a nine-point span midway through the game, then added back-to-back aces later on that gave the Chargers a 21-16 lead. Yingst put down the final point to force the fifth and deciding set.

Garrett called a timeout to try and get the Chargers to re-group after Newport took an 8-5 lead in the fifth, but Newport sophomore Alex Holbrook came out right after the break and tallied a huge solo block. The Sailors would not be denied from there.

While the top-seeded Chargers won’t be making the trip to Irvine on Saturday to face Northern Division champion Salinas for the state crown, they know what a special season it has been. It’s not often that a program has nine seniors, with five moving on to play on scholarship at the collegiate level.

“It starts with them being amazing people first, and then you have the accolades and the athleticism tacked on,” said Garrett.

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  1. too bad…Dos Pueblos had a great season but Mitty did own them…3-1 the two times they met…

  2. too bad…Dos Pueblos had a great season but Mitty did own them…3-1 the two times they met…