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Division V three-peat in reach for Ripon Christian
Bear River-Ripon Christian girls volleyball
Bear River’s Mya Marsh (left) and Ripon Christian’s Megan Weststeyn (right) battle for the ball. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

Top-seeded Ripon Christian made it interest the first set, set the tone in the second and ran away in the third with a 25-20, 25-12, 25-13 sweep of visiting fifth-seeded Bear River in the semifinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V girls volleyball playoffs.

“You can see the progression of us getting more comfortable and getting into our rhythm and our pace of play,” Knights coach Kayla Kootstra said. “Sometimes, especially when we haven’t seen a team before, we let what they are doing on the other side sort of dictate how we react or how we respond. But once we settled in and adjusted to what we needed to we did a much better job of executing on our side.

“I told them after the first game that we didn’t play our best volleyball but we still pulled out a win, so I said let’s figure out what adjustments we need to make and come out better in the second game and that’s what we did.”

Fortunately for Ripon Christian (29-6), after six ties in the first set Ava Van Groningen went on a 7-0 service run behind a pair of aces to spot the Knights to a 20-11 lead. The Bruins from Grass Valley gobbled up a good but of that lead closing to within 21-18, but Jordan Vander Veen got three of the final four Ripon Christian points to help secure the win at 25-20.

Van Groningen tallied 19 digs.  

“I have been working hard in practice on digs a lot in practice,” Van Groningen said. “My mindset now is defense first and that is a big part of the game we really need to focus on in the playoffs.”

“We have been working on the serves and putting it in the places we want to serve to to take the other team off their game.”

After Bear River (19-9) had forced three ties early in the second set, Vander Veen cut loose with seven of her 22 kills on the way to a 25-12 Knights win.

“My setter (Megan Weststeyn) and I have a really good connection,” Vander Veen said. “She knows if she feeds me a ball I can do something with it and that’s something we have worked really hard on.

“When we have a good pass and a good set our offense is able to put the ball away and our offense is in a really great place where it is doing its job like it should.” 

Weststeyn dished out 36 assists.

In the third and final set, Ripon Christian’s Leah Van Wyngarden posted five aces, including three in a row early to help give the Knights separation as there were no ties in that game.

“Acing is a really big part of our game,” Van Wyngarden said, “When you ace it gets your team in a better position and they have a lot more momentum and it gets everybody excited.”

Ripon Christian will face off with Bret Harte of Grass Valley on Saturday in the Section championship with the time and location to be announced today.  The Knights are going for their third straight Section title and 18th overall.