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Johnston’s play central to Ripon’s continued success

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2009 All-Area volleyball player of the year Kelsey Johnston was a key ingredient in Ripon High's playoff run.


POSTED December 28, 2009 12:19 a.m.
Kelsey Johnston opened the season as one of Ripon High’s key ingredients for a team hoping to make another lengthy push in the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason. By the time the season closed Johnston was the main ingredient of an impressive Indian playoff run and The Bulletin’s 2009 All-Area Volleyball MVP.

Johnston, was remarkable for the entire season,  leading Ripon to an impressive 40-11 season record complete with the Indians’ fourth consecutive TVL championship.

Her play earned her co-MVP honors alongside Escalon outside hitter Kaitlyn Brayton, and made her the fourth Indian in the past four seasons to be awarded the league’s award for its best player. The junior setter came into the season uncertain of her team’s chances of continuing Ripon’s dominance.

“I didn’t really know what to expect out of our team,” Johnston said. “I knew that our previous teams were really good, but a lot of our players had left. I can’t say I knew any of this was going to happen, but it has all been great.”

Her season was impressive to say the least, leading Ripon in assists (1,072) and aces (202), while guiding the Indians to an 14-1 league record and completing their home schedule without a loss (13-0). The Indians  beat nearly every team that stepped in their way, reeling off a 19-match winning streak during the middle portion of the season.

Johnston’s most difficult job was keeping a laundry list of his lineup, including Ashley Robinson, Lauren Feddersen and Cheyann DePrue, whom all finished the season with all-TVL recognition.

“It really was easy for me to set for all of the girls, because I have so many options,” Johnston said. “That part became really easy. I just had to worry about getting the passes there and they did the rest.”

With three players with over 200 kills, sharing the ball was as important as any other aspect of the Indians’ season. Johnston actually smashed home 140 kills herself, elevating her importance to unparalleled heights. Even though the area’s best player only stands 5-foot-6-inches, she was without question Ripon’s biggest player.

“Kelsey was great for us, she was the key part,” Ripon head coach and TVL coach of the year Larry Keethe said. “If you don’t have a good setter you really are not that successful. Kelsey’s season didn’t surprise me. She was good as a freshman, she was good as a sophomore and she just keeps getting better and better.

“I’m sure she’ll be better next year.”

Next year Johnston’s quest for another banner season would mean beating Christian Brothers in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title match. The Indians dropped the blue-banner match to Christian Brothers for the fourth consecutive time.

Ripon lost 3-2, dropping the fifth game 15-12 after holding a seemingly comfortable 9-5 lead. The Falcons continued their dominance over the Indians with a 3-0 sweep in the CIF State Championships Northern California final. Any hurdle the team feels it has to clear next season will begin with the Falcons.

“We never felt like we were just going to lose to Christian Brothers,” Johnston said of Ripon’s postseason nemesis. “We have been so close in every game we’ve played them. When we play them we have nothing to lose, so we go out and have them in a game and then once we make a mistake we all freak out.

“We can beat them just as easy as they beat us; it’s just something that’s in our head.”
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