RIPON – Ripon Christian put forth a never-say-die effort against Escalon in front of its home crowd Thursday night.
Despite the match being tied at 23 apiece in Game 2 and 27 in Game 3, Escalon still managed to escape with a sweep (25-20, 25-23, 29-27) during a rematch of last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal.
“(RC) is a great team, but we’re solid and really stepped up,” said Escalon’s 10th-year head coach Teresa Williamson. “We were down in Game 3, but we pulled together and took it back.”
Ripon Christian was facing a 2-0 deficit in the third set after making a run and coming up empty in the second.
Escalon (9-4) took a 1-0 series lead into the second set and started out 8-3. The Cougars led by as much as seven before the Knights (2-3) went on a 7-1 run to make it a one-point game at 22-21 thanks to one of Andie Shelton’s powerful kills.
Shelton (17 kills, 16 assists, four blocks, three aces) was clutch for RC, but Escalon sophomore Kylee Irwin-Paz was clutch as well and delivered a kill that ended game 2.
“(Game 2) motivated us to come back strong,” Ripon Christian co-head coach Kara Ledeboer said. “We knew we could beat them. We played right there with them. (Escalon) is a good team, but we came out in the third game and tried to win it.”
The third set was back and forth and saw 12 ties.
Ripon Christian couldn’t get that key point during Game 3, which was tied at 20, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27.
Escalon setter Taylor Laugero (25 digs, 24 assists) ended it with a set over the net that landed right in the center of RC’s defense.
“The third game we definitely picked up our momentum,” Ledeboer added. “We missed a few key serves, which didn’t help us. Those were easy errors in key moments.”
In Game 1, RC led 14-13 before Escalon went on a 12-6 run to steal it. The first game saw eight ties, but Irwin-Paz (two blocks) had a kill that made it 24-19 and Escalon closed it out two possessions later.
The Cougars were eliminated in the semifinals of the playoffs for a fifth straight year last season after losing against the Knights.
“My players try not to focus on the past, but (last year) was definitely in the back of my mind,” Williamson said. “We pulled it together as a team. Our serving was solid, which made a difference against (RC’s) defense. We hit smart and we definitely played phenomenal defense.”
Elisabeth Regusci led RC with 14 assists. Dani Erdelatz finished with 12 kills and three aces. Cassidy Caton led Escalon with 13 kills.
RC’s next game is scheduled for Tuesday at St. Mary’s in Stockton at 6 p.m.