The time for the long-awaited rematch between crosstown rivals, San Marcos and Santa Barbara, has arrived. The Royals and Dons faced each other on the volleyball court, as the first rivalry game of the 2023-2024 year kicked off on August 31st. Our varsity girls volleyball team became victorious in five sets after a back and forth battle. Placing 6-1 in their league, the Dons are looking to dominate the Channel League this season and have the opportunity to achieve their goals for the year.
I had the opportunity to interview senior setter Stella Borgioli, Junior middle blocker Nicole Schuetz, and Assistant Coach Kim Zuffelato. These three played a huge part in the win against San Marcos. When the royals started to gain control of the game in the third and fourth sets, they kept their composure and helped the team find their confidence again. Borgioli, talking about the momentum swing in the third set, claims, “I definitely felt that SM was dictating the way we played. While we continued to stay calm and encouraged as we played, it was hard to create momentum as they became more confident and their student section became louder.” This often happens in these games, especially when energy in the gym increases as the game becomes closer.
This rivalry between the Dons and Royals is a very significant part of our school’s athletics history. When asked about what the matchup meant to her, Schuetz said, “These SM games are always the most fun because we have a lot of support from the other students and athletes at our school. There is a lot of pressure from everyone to beat them, and thankfully we have been successful the past two years,” Schuetz was playing through a head injury in this game, but claimed it didn’t bother her because, “adrenaline kicks in and I forget about the pain and focus on the game.” From a coach’s perspective, it is important to treat this game like any other match. “I feel like we should approach every opponent with the same energy and enthusiasm.” says Coach K about the rivalry.
During this game, the environment outside of the court also can really affect the way each athlete performs. It is crucial to stay focused and be prepared for a nearly deafening level of cheers from fans on all sides of the gym. “We had the girls go into the green room after we lost set 4 so we could have a bit of peace and quiet. It was so loud in the gym!” says Coach K regarding the scenery. “What they need is to stay focused. I try to give players certain things to do that will take their mind off the crowd and all of the distraction…I try to help the players stay present and be in the moment.”
This season for the Dons is looking greatly promising. A team consisting of nine varsity returners, experience is not a factor this squad lacks. They have shown efficient performances on the court, and proven why they are a top contender in the Channel League.
Image Credit: Jacob Sturm