RIPON — They are not in eighth grade any more.
While warming up for senior night Thursday, the Ripon volleyball players were wearing T-shirts of many colors, representing the grammar schools they came from.
Now, four years later, five Indians seniors led Ripon to a 25-19, 25-17, 25-17 sweep of Hughson to claim the Trans-Valley League championship with an unblemished league record.
And take it they did, finishing 12-0 in the TVL and 19-4 overall.
“As a freshman on senior night I couldn’t imagine this day ever coming,” four-year starter Samantha McCreath said. “And now that it is here it is just so exciting because this is the first time we have won league in I don’t know how long.
Looking up at the championship banners that fill the Ripon High gym she added, “It is just something special that 2016 will be on the championship banner on that wall someday.”
Ripon earned its first league title since winning four in a row in 2006-10.
Leading the way Thursday night were seniors Ashlyn Eisenga, Lauren Weibe, Breana Barrios and twin sisters Madison and Samantha McCreath.
Samantha (nine kills, three blocks, ace) brought the first set to an end with one of her trademark resounding spikes.
After running away with the first set – the Indians trailed once at 1-0 – the Huskies (5-7, 9-12) battled tough through the next two, forcing ties at 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in the second game and 1, 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 in the third.
Leading 17-15 in the third set, Madison McCreath (nine kills, two aces) hammered three kills in a row and added another one down the stretch as Ripon closed out the game on an 8-2 run.
“This team has been together for like six years,” Madison said. “I have had three knee surgeries so it is just nice to be back out here again.”
Barrios (15 kills, four blocks, two aces) brought the crowd to its feet, scoring three of the last four Indians points in the second set with two kills and a block.
“Our crowd came out tonight which helped us a lot,” Barrios said. “The energy on the court was good and we all put and good effort in.”
When she was not setting up the McCreath sisters and Barrios, Weibe (29 assists, four aces and a block) was showing her prowess at the service line and she ended the second game with one of her four aces.
“We come out and play our game strong,” Weibe said. “We just came out tonight and did the same thing, and it was super fun with the big crowd.”
Playing libero, Eisenga was all over the floor with 17 digs.
“Our defense read their hitters very well tonight,” Eisenga said. “We are very quick and worked on quickness in practice and it paid off tonight.”
When the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs begin on Tuesday, Ripon will in all likelihood host a first-round game.
“Our focus all season has been playoffs,” first-year Ripon coach Erin Cutino said. “We knew that if we worked hard league was a possibility for us, but we knew we wanted to go to sections.
“They are ready to go after playoffs. We have some senior leaders that are ready to take us there.