Family ties push Spieler-Van Winden to Santa Barbara Women’s Open title

Cousins Torrey Van Winden and Katie Spieler combined to win the CBVA Santa Barbara Women's Open.

Cousins Torrey Van Winden and Katie Spieler combined to win the CBVA Santa Barbara Women’s Open.

It was all about family in the finals of the California Beach Volleyball Association Santa Barbara Women’s Open on Sunday.

Cousins Katie Spieler and Torrey Van Winden maintained their poise after a first-set loss and defeated top-seeded Brittany Tiegs and Jace Pardon to win the tournament championship in front of the East Beach Bath House. The set scores were 16-21, 21-19, 15-13.

Spieler is a Dos Pueblos alum who just completed her sophomore season on the sand volleyball team at the University of Hawaii. Van Winden is entering her junior year at Vintage High in Napa. She was an All-State selection as a sophomore. Their mothers (Kathy and Kelly Strand) are sisters, and volleyball is the family sport.

“Our moms are both players,” said Spieler. “Luckily we got some height in the family,” she added with a laugh while looking at her 6-3 cousin.

Torrey’s mom, Kelly, played at Cal Poly, where she is one of the program’s all-time kill and dig leaders.

“Every time we’re together at Christmas, or at family gatherings, it’s volleyball all day.” Spieler said of the family’s love for the sport. “All the cousins play. It’s fun; it’s a family sport.”

All those family games probably came in handy on Sunday as the cousins hadn’t practiced or played together before the tournament. Torrey didn’t arrive in Santa Barbara until Saturday.

“I think it’s just family chemistry because when we get on the court, it clicks,” Spieler said. “We always have fun, no matter the outcome.”

Spieler was very familiar with her opponents. Tiegs was a teammate at Hawaii and she played with Pardon on the U.S. Under-21 team. Pardon plays collegiately at Florida State.

Pardon-Tiegs controlled the first set.

The second set was tight all the way. The breakthrough for Spieler-Van Winden came at 18-17 when Spieler dug a ball and Van Winden poked it to the back line. Pardon and Tiegs thought the ball was out, but referee Chad Arneson went over and checked the back line and ruled the ball in.

Tiegs sided out with a drop shot, but Van Winden answered by turning a ball away from the block for a 20-18 lead.

The Santa Barbara CBVA Women's Open was played in front of the East Beach Bathhouse. (Presidio Sports Photo)

The Santa Barbara CBVA Women’s Open was played in front of the East Beach Bathhouse. (Presidio Sports Photo)

After a Tiegs kill made it 20-19, Van Winden hit a shot that Tiegs-Pardon couldn’t make a play on. That forced a deciding set to 15 points.

Asked if playing against her college teammate made it tougher for shots to drop, Spieler said it went both ways. “Because we know each other, we know tendencies. It was kind of even ground.”

Although she’s only 16, Van Winden wasn’t at all intimidated playing in a championship match against strong college players.

“I love good competition,” she said. “It’s not fun when you don’t have good competition. I’ve played up my whole life and I’m going to keep going for it.”

Spieler scored back-to-back points on a deep shot and a one-arm stab dig into the open court to put her team up 9-7. But Pardon-Tiegs scored on a service error and a Pardon putaway of an overset to tie the score at 10-10.

Pardon picked up a dink and then buried the ball to even the score again at 12-12.

Then Van Winden came up big. She sided out with a kill and then scooped up a dink and put the ball away for a 14-12 advantage.

Pardon sided out on the next play before Spieler finished the match with a deep shot.

“It’s such a blessing to have Katie as a partner, especially being family,” Van Winden said. “Even not being family, she is probably the best defensive player I’ve ever, ever played with my whole life.”

Spieler-Van Winden almost didn’t make it out of pool play. They finished in a three-way tie for first and advanced on a tiebreaker by one point.

“We didn’t expect this but we kept pushing,” said Van Winden.

And they pushed all the way to a Santa Barbara Open title

“Last year we ended up in second, so it was good to push through and get a first,” said Spieler.

Third place went to the local team of Patti Cook-Dana Kabashima and Orange County’s Kathryn Plummer-Morgan Martin.

In other volleyball news, Spieler’s brother, Cory, took second place in the Santa Monica/Ocean Beach Unrated Tournament with partner Jeff Lee. Santa Barbara High’s Kyle Skinner and Devon Burki were runners-up in the Santa Monica/Ocean Beach A.

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