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Knights’ surprise run halted in NorCal opener

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Ripon Christian middle blocker Kelsey Tillema contests the hit from Castilleja standout Erin McLaughlin during Tuesday's Northern California Regional Championships opening round match.


POSTED November 25, 2009 2:12 a.m.
RIPON — Ripon Christian showed it more than deserved its berth into the CIF Northern California Division V State Volleyball Championships, yet the Knights were unable to extend their magical season after a four-game loss (11-25, 25-22, 13-25 and 18-25) to Castilleja of Palo Alto.  

Castilleja (18-12) came out demonstrating why it’s the defending state champion, jumping out to an early 6-1 lead in the first game and never relinquishing it. The Knights (17-17) countered back with a strong performance in the second game, fighting off the temptation to throw in the season and outplaying the Gators throughout the second game.

“It’s scary when the defending state champions come walking into your gym,” Ripon Christian head coach Tiger Shelton said. “We weren’t afraid or intimidated by them, but we surely respected them a lot. It took us awhile to get going, but we just weren’t able to keep things going.”

The Knights undoubtedly snatched back the momentum with the game two win, sending the Ripon Christian faithful into a frenzy with the opportunity to knock off the state champions.

But Castilleja would respond, by opening the third game on a 15-4 tear.

“I think tonight we did very well with keeping our selves balanced,” Castilleja head coach Tracie Maeskell said. “All year long we’ve been going up and down, tonight we managed to stay tough and execute the whole way through.

“(In) Game 2, Ripon Christian played excellent and they just got the better of us, but the fact that we came back in games three and four is huge for our team. It really was a great thing to see at this time of year.”

Ripon Christian showed fragments of resiliency, snipping the Gators’ lead down to six points (19-13), but that would be as close as the three-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section champions would get.

Castilleja had no interest in letting Ripon Christian find its way back into the match, scoring 10 of the fourth game’s first 13 points, leaving the Knights gripping for one final push.

Shelton’s group would respond once more, cutting a double-digit Gators lead to four points before running out of gas on the season.

“We made a good run,” Shelton said. “And had we been able to pull out that fourth game I think the noose would have tightened around their necks and who knows what would have happened.

“I told the girls that if they were able to pull off this miraculous comeback, the fifth game was ours. I know that if I don’t give up on them they won’t give up on me and they’ll fight until the end.
“And that’s exactly what they did.”

Ripon Christian got a strong showing from junior setter Michelle Terpstra, who turned in team-high’s in kills (eight), aces (three) and assists (17).

The Knights got 12 digs apiece from Laura Barry and Britney Petlansky and a team-leading six blocks from senior Kelsey Tillema. Tillema followed up her highlight play in the section finale with an inspiring effort in what would be her final match as a member of the Ripon Christian program.

“We had nothing to lose,” Tillema said. “After the first game we were a little dead, but we just wanted to go out and play the best that we could.

We thought we were giving it our everything, because this could be our last game.”

The defeat would be the team’s final loss of the season, but a loss to the defending division V state champions does not give the Knights reason to hang their heads after another impressive section championship season.

“I absolutely love my team,” Tillema said of this season’s group. “I am so proud of them. They stuck through a rough TVL (Trans Valley League) season and never gave up.

“We had our ups and downs, but we all stuck together and I’m just so pleasantly surprised.”

Castilleja will next face Branson of Ross on the road Saturday.
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