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ALL-AREA VOLLEYBALL: Van Groningen keyed RC’s run to NorCal title
All-Area boys volleyball
Ripon Christian’s Joel Van Groningen is challenged by John Adams Academy middle blocker Jathan Strandhagen during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship match on May 14. GARY JENSEN/


MVP: OH Joel Van Groningen, Ripon Christian, Jr.


Outside Hitter of the Year: Christian Green, Lathrop, Sr.


Middle Blocker of the year: Camden Steckler, Manteca, Jr.


Setter of the Year:  Tory Sumbler, Lathrop Sr.


Libero of the Year: Diego Sanchez, Lathrop, Sr.


Team: S Garrett Blight, Ripon, Sr.; MB Griffin de Abreu, Ripon Christian, Jr.; S/RS Justin Hofman, Ripon Christian, Jr.; S Brian Huynh, Sierra, Sr.; OH Arman John, Lathrop, Sr.; L Austin Kim, Sierra, Jr.; OH Abraham Palacios, Weston Ranch, So.; OH Josiah Reif, Ripon Christian, Jr.; OH Angel Rodriguez, Manteca, Sr.; MB Nate Rodriguez, East Union, Sr. 

Joel Van Groningen was often the center of Ripon Christian’s biggest moments during its historic 2022 march to the NorCal Division IV regional championship.

With their 6-foot-4 outside hitter leading the charge, the Knights capped the remarkable run with a 28-1 record and the young program’s first Sac-Joaquin Section and NorCal titles. Van Groningen is the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Boys Volleyball MVP, adding to his list accomplishments that includes Southern Athletic League MVP and SJS All-Section Team honors.

He statistically ranked among the state’s top hitters and servers, finishing in the top 10 in hitting percentage (.459, ninth), kills (446, ninth) and aces (107, third). On four occasions, racked up at least 20 kills in sweeps. He had 21 in a two-set win over Franklin in the Stockton Classic for a whopping 10.5 per-set average.

It wasn’t just the counting stats that made Van Groningen stand out in a breakout year in the sport for Manteca-area schools. Van Groningen through in clutch situations in Ripon Christian’s final three matches of the year when he averaged 7.1 kills per set.

In the second round of the NorCal tournament, he broke a single-match record with 33 kills in a hard-earned 25-23, 25-23, 14-25, 25-23 over fourth-seeded Lincoln of San Francisco. The previous record was held by Cade Alger, who crushed 31 kills in a five-set win against Hilmar in 2019.

In the NorCal semifinal, the Knights clinched the opening set with back-to-back kills from Van Groningen. The start of game 2, however, belonged to the Mustangs, who jumped out to a 7-0 lead with 6-7 sophomore outside hitter Michael Shelley accounting for four kills and a block.

Van Groningen gave his team and the home crowd a needed shot of energy with three straight serving aces. He later knotted the score at 21-21 with two kills in a row. Middles Walker Postma and Griffin de Abreu and outside hitter Josiah Reif helped complete the comeback, putting the Knights in position to advance to the NorCal final for the first time.

In the title match, Van Groningen was instrumental once again. Ripon Christian swept but was pushed by San Francisco Section champion Lowell, 25-11, 28-26, 25-22. The Cardinals controlled much of the second set and even led 23-19 late. Van Groningen contributed two kills and an ace in the comeback.

Lowell threatened to extend the match late in the third set, when Van Groningen had three tying kills was fittingly the one to put away the final point of the season.

Expectations will be high for Van Groningen and the Knights next season, as they’ve lost just one senior to graduation. Also returning are fellow All-Area selections Griffin de Abreu, Justin Hofman and Josiah Reif.