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Four local players, coach named to All-Section Team
All-Section Boys Volleyball
Lathrop coach Toa Fa'ali'i hugs the ceremonial gold volleyball after leading the Spartans to their first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section championship last Saturday at Natomas High. GARY JENSEN/GreatShots49@gmail.com

Lathrop and Ripon Christian are making history with every match they play at this point in the season and even receiving accolades in between.

On Wednesday, the Sac-Joaquin Boys Volleyball Forum revealed its inaugural All-Section Team that includes four players from the Manteca area and a coach.

All-Section Boys Volleyball
Ripon Christian's Joel Van Groningen (7) hits the ball past John Adams Academy's Pedro Tafoya (13) in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV final Saturday at Natomas High. GARY JENSEN/GreatShots49@gmail.com

Toa Fa’ali’i has been named co-Coach of the Year after leading Lathrop to a perfect regular season and its first SJS title. The SJS champion is 31-0 and faces top-seeded Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland tonight for a semifinal showdown in the California Interscholastic Federation Division III NorCal Regionals.

Joining him on the All-Section Team are Spartans standouts Christian Green and Tory Sumbler. Ripon Christian outside hitter Joel Van Groningen is also on the first team, while Camden Steckler of Manteca made honorable mention.

Ripon Christian (26-1) is in the NorCal semifinals, as well. The Knights are seeded No. 1 in Division IV and hosts Lincoln of San Francisco tonight.

“I’m super blessed and humbled to be mentioned in that group,” Fa’ali’i said. “This is my first year coaching, and to win that award is an honor. To have two of my boys on that first team shows how hard they’ve worked. They’re my two captains, and without those two we would not be where we are right now.

“Volleyball is their passion, and I love seeing the both of them mentioned with these boys from Jesuit and other Division I and II schools. That speaks volumes for what they do on the court for us and I’m super excited for them.”

Fa’ali’i shares his award with Sara Marks coach of NorCal Division II No. 1 seed Jesuit. Jesuit is the top-ranked team in the SJS, according to MaxPreps computer ratings.

Green is among the Section leaders across most hitting categories. He has 343 kills (3.8 per set) and holds an efficient 0.499 hitting percentage. His 105 service aces are a team high.

Sumbler directs the Spartans attack as their setter but is also a well-rounded contributor. He is No. 2 in the Section with 803 assists (8.8 per set) and leads his team with 44 total blocks.

Van Groningen is Ripon Christian’s go-to hitter. He has racked up 394 kills (4.7 per set) and 99 aces.

Middle blocker Steckler led Manteca (17-7) to a Valley Oak League championship and a postseason win. He drilled 134 kills (4.3 per set) and added 32 blocks.