When you meet Alina and Siena Urzua, the first thing you notice is that they are either smiling or they are laughing.
And, they are usually together.
The two sisters are a year apart, but that’s really the only thing that separates them.
“We’ve just always had a special bond. Like a good friendship. She’s my best friend,” Siena said.
“Yeah, same with her,” Alina said, immediately causing the two sisters to laugh in unison.
“It’s just always been like that.”
Like the rest of their family, the sisters, beyond being bonded by blood, are bonded by another entity: sports.
Alina and Siena, who both attend Bishop Diego High School, are from a long line of Urzuas that donned the red and black Cardinals uniform.
Their grandmother and mother both played volleyball while their father played football and basketball.
Their father, Larry Urzua, is still heavily involved with Bishop football, coaching in the program.
They have also had a slew of uncles and aunts play a variety of sports at Bishop High.
That makes Alina and Siena the third generation of Urzuas to play sports for the Cardinals, and are the first sister pair in that long history to play together.
“To know that our grandparents and our parents played here and they (have) passed down memories of playing back then and us playing now. It’s just, it’s cool and it’s different too,” Siena said.
Despite sharing a love for most things, the two sisters do differ on one subject: their favorite sport.
Alina, a sophomore, leans more towards volleyball while Siena, a freshman, has a passion for soccer.
The two have been multi-sport athletes the majority of their lives, however, and even enjoyed one season of playing together when they were younger.
“It was AYSO soccer. She was probably 11 and I was 10. It was a lot of fun. We have always had that special bond and it was easier to play on the soccer field,” Siena said.
“We already had great communication so it was never a struggle for us,” Alina said.
After seventh grade, however, Alina felt her passion shift from soccer to volleyball. She had no real reason for it, she just started liking volleyball more. Her coaches, including the one she has now at Bishop, Dillan Bennett, allowed her to improve each day and let her love grow.
For Siena, her passion has always belonged out on the pitch. She has been playing since she was 5 years old. Unlike Alina, however, who also loves soccer, Siena had never played volleyball, at least in a traditional setting.
That didn’t stop Alina from telling her sister to try out for the volleyball team at Bishop.
“I mostly just wanted to play with her,” Alina said. “I knew she was athletic and could benefit the team and she ended up making varsity so it was really fun.”
Siena didn’t just make varsity, she was a key contributor for Bishop. Siena tallied 13 kills on a .320 hitting percentage and 10 digs to help lead the Cardinals to their first playoff win since 2002.
In the second round, Siena added 14 kills to help lead Bishop to the quarterfinals, where they ultimately lost in five sets.
As for her sister, Alina was nothing short of great. A setter for the Cardinals, Alina consistently played at a high level and set up a lot of the offense, including her sister.
“It was a lot of fun,” Alina said.
“I’m the setter and she was the hitter so I could just set her up and she could just slam it.”
Alina received All-CIF honors in Div. 8 for her performance this season.
“She always made me feel better, especially when I would mess up. She’d always be there to guide me,” Siena said.
When volleyball season was over, Siena was turning her attention to soccer, but Alina thought she wasn’t going to play this winter.
“I wasn’t going to play just because I figured out that I liked volleyball more,” Alina said.
Her sister had other ideas.
“Well, she asked me to do volleyball so I was like, ‘OK, now you have to do soccer’ and she was kind of hesitant because of volleybal,l but I was like, ‘You have to do it with me now,’ ” Siena said with a laugh.
“It’s just fun to keep playing together.”
Like in fall, the Urzua sisters have been key factors for the Bishop girls soccer team. In their first win of the season against Dunn, Siena and Alina combined to score six of the teams’ seven goals.
Siena had four while Alina had two, and assisted on one of her sister’s goals, showcasing how talented the girls are across the sports landscape.
“My parents always tell us: ‘You have to be the hardest working person on the field and eventually your God-given talent will show through then like you’ll be like something special,” Alina said.
One thing that also has the girls excited is that in two years not only do they hope to keep playing together but alongside another family member.
“Our sister in seventh grade, (and) is going to be a freshman when Siena is a junior and I am a senior. We are for sure going to play together,” Alina said. “She’s going to crush it. She’s already 6 feet.”
“It’s going to be so much fun and she’s a hitter, too, so it’s going to be great,” Siena added.
Even beyond the play on the field, however, the girls are happier with the fact that they get to be with each other.
“Just being able to support each other has been the best thing,” Siena said.
“We don’t even fight. We share a room but we don’t even argue. We just have that bond,” Alina said.
The Dons are currently 3-4-4 and have been significantly better since returning the core of its lineup from other sports. Most recently, Santa Barbara drew a 0-0 match with a tough Camarillo team that is currently ranked nationally.
However, one thing looming over the program is the mysterious firing of its former head coach Silas Fallstich Thursday. No reasoning has been given.
Bridget Thomson will be the interim coach for the rest of the year.
The Dons are led by a strong backline on defense which includes junior Lizzie Goss, senior Jianna Orozco and two solid goalkeepers in senior Lia Rodriguez and sophomore Carolina Koceman.
Up top, Santa Barbara will rely on senior captain Sofia Capelletti to handle the scoring. She was tied for the Channel league lead in points scored last season.
She has one goal so far this season with no player having more than one score.
The defending Channel League champions had a much later start to the season than most teams, but it’s something coach Seth Asuncion thinks could help them in the long run.
“We were just thinking about the girls health and well-being and be able to give them rest from club before high school season gets into full swing,” Asuncion said.
Three games into their season, the Chargers own a 1-2 record, with their most recent result being a win at Saugus. The team graduated six starting seniors from last year, so Asuncion expected a bumpy start.
“There will be growing pains as we figure that out but it’s just about getting better and solidifying our roster,” Asuncion said.
Emilia Kling, a four-year varsity starter and captain, is someone Asuncion relies on out on the pitch to help the team connect on passes while Barbara Gonzalez can find the goal for the Chargers. She had one goal in the team’s 2-1 win at Saugus.
The Royals are still seeking their first win of the season as they currently sit a 0-2-3. San Marcos has played a tough non-league schedule, however, which includes Hart High, a Div. 1 school.
Unlike most teams, San Marcos has also wrapped it’s non-league schedule without taking part in a tournament. The Royals next game is not until their Channel League opener against Santa Barbara.
One of the players San Marcos will rely on heavily on the offensive side is Paige Ingram, a junior who jumpstarts the passing in the midfield.
“I have really high hopes for this team. Last year I was a varsity player and it was all new to me but this year we have a junior heavy class and we are all used to each other and that will help us in the long run,” Ingram said.
The Pirates are one of the most impressive teams of the non-league season as they currently sit at 5-1-1.
“We are really starting to find our identity as a team and it has me excited. I feel pretty good about our start, I mean we’re talented. We are young but we are talented,” coach Rob Cantrell said.
One of the players Santa Ynez relies on is Neta Ofiaeli who scored four goals in the Pirates’ 5-0 win against Laguna Blanca. Senior captains Sarah Johnston and Roslyn Kristofferson also help set the tone for the team.
Last season, Santa Ynez was first place in the Channel League with three games left but would lose the final three games. This year Cantrell believes they will fare better.
“Every team is a viable contender, there is no doubt about it,” Cantrell said.
Despite sitting at 2-5-1, Cabrillo coach Derrick Wong says the team is way ahead of there they are at this time last year.
“We have a difficult preseason schedule. We just look to keep improving and staying disciplined and playing how we want to play. We play better teams because it allows us to challenge ourselves and prepare ourselves for league,” Wong said.
Wong relies on Lauren Pulido and Antoinette Terrones as they are the ones who run the team. As a whole, Cabrillo tries to run everything through the middle and connect on passes to then strike later.
Wong also said that the team’s depth this year compared to last will be a key difference once league play starts.
Lompoc is currently the only team in the Channel League that still sports an undefeated mark. The Braves are currently 5-0-3 and have had some impressive victories against St. Joseph, Nipomo and Paso Robles.
Lompoc is led by star striker Ayziah Simmons, but coach Jason Cochrane says it will be the players around her that will make the difference once league play starts.
Cate owns a record of 3-1-1 and is excited to be making the jump from the Frontier League to the Tri-Valley League after earning a promotion.
“We’re going up against schools of up to 2,000 kids and we have 290, so it’s pretty intimidating, but we are doing our best to prepare,” coach Taylor Wyatt said.
One person Wyatt will rely on is goalkeeper Taylor Keen. Last season, she was the keeper of the year in the Frontier League, and with the team playing against, “a lot more speed,” her presence will be needed.
Grace Blankenhorn is also a stalwart in the midfield as she will help set up the defense.
The Warriors are currently 2-7-1 but coach Charles Bryant sees his teams potential to be even better.
“We are more creative this year and have more balance but we just can’t finish our opportunities. That is killing us right now, but we are better than our record indicates,” Bryant said.
Carpinteria is led by Dana Wagner, who has committed to play her college ball at Cal State Northridge. She is a strong defender, but also leads the team in scoring.
“She’s just a general out on the field for us,” Bryant said.