AT A GLANCE
WHO: (2) Ripon Christian vs. (1) Ripon
WHAT: Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV final
WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Modesto Junior College
ADMISSION: general $15, seniors/military $12, high school students with ID $9, children ages 5-under free
TICKETS: Sold only through GoFan
Anticipating a promotion to Division IV for her team, Ripon Christian coach Kayla Kootstra opted out of the Knights’ annual “friendly rivalry” match with Ripon — the defending Division IV champion in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Last year, RC collected its 18th SJS Division V title and went on to claim its second state championship. The Knights have since been moved to Division IV for the Section playoffs because of continued success, setting them on a postseason collision course with Ripon.
Kootstra’s premonition has become reality, as the two teams will face off for the SJS Division IV championship Saturday at Modesto Junior College starting at 1 p.m. Top-seeded Ripon (30-5) is going after its fourth Section title.
“It’s always been a friendly rivalry and, we had been playing them in the last two weeks of the season during one of their bye weeks,” Kootstra said. “Honestly, it was one of the games I used to help gear us up for playoffs. With us going into D-IV and them having a really good team, I had a feeling that this matchup would come fairly soon after we would normally play.
“Sometimes it’s nice to go into a game with no history from that season. Instead of having preconceived ideas of what we’re walking into, we get to walk in with a clean slate and see what happens.”
With Ripon returning to the title round, this will be the 10th straight season that the Trans-Valley League is represented in the SJS Division IV final. TVL teams, including Hilmar and Escalon, have claimed the last six D-IV crowns.
Ripon Christian (31-5) is coming back to the TVL next year after leaving for the Southern Athletic League in 2010. The rivalry has remained intact since, as they’ve dueled in Foundation Games, tournaments, midseason tune-ups and even in the playoffs (twice).
With Ripon Christian mainly campaigning in Division V for decades, it wasn’t until 2012 — around the time the SJS introduced its “continued success” rule — that the two went toe-to-toe in the postseason. The Knights swept that second-round matchup en route to finishing as Division IV runners-up.
Two years ago, they tangled in the opening round of the Division IV NorCal Regionals. Ripon Christian squeaked that one out, 26-28, 25-22, 25-23, 13-25, 17-15.
Ripon’s standout setters Kaya Whittaker and Reagan Wilkerson played in that NorCal match, as did outside hitters Kylee Fullmer and Kailee Inderbitzin. The Indians have further bolstered the front row with Katherine Eskes and 6-foot sophomore and Adriana Dorn.
Ripon Christian middle blocker Sydney Hofman and all-around threat Leah Van Wyngarden also took part in the NorCal tilt two years ago. Jordan Vander Veen missed the back half of her sophomore season with an injury, but she has since emerged as the top player in the area.
Vander Veen looks forward to rekindling this friendly rivalry, which is also a reunion of club teammates.
“There’s been a lot of build up for this and it’s a small-town rivalry, of course,” she said. “They have a really good team and so do we, so it should be a good game.
“Since middle school, we’ve been playing with each other and against each other in club; I have three of them on my club team this year, so it’s fun to play them. We’re all friends, but it’s competition at the end of the day and we both want to win.”