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GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Familiar faces
Ripon Christian optimistic behind new coach, returning players
Bulletin girls volleyball 2019
Ripon Christian Alexis Hilvers gets the ball back over the net in practice. - photo by DAVE CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

RIPON — The road more traveled does not often lead to Ripon.
Luckily for Ripon Christian, that is not always the case. With a coaching history that extends back to 1998 in Escondido and worked its way north through Chowchilla, Ava Vander Woude will channel that experience and take over the volleyball program for the Knights. They’re looking to build on last year’s Southern League co-championship with a 13-1 SL, 19-11 overall record.
This will not be Vander Woude’s first year in the Knights program — she coached the eighth graders for Ripon Christian in 2015 and was an assistant for the Knights junior varsity in 2017.
“I am very passionate about volleyball and want to share that with the girls this season,” Vander Woude said.  “I would like to see our team strive to do the basics well, which will give us more opportunities on the court.
“I am excited to see this program continue to grow and push for new heights.”
Ripon Christian loses six graduates — including reigning All-SL MVP Makenzie Miller — from last year’s squad that earned a first-round bye in the playoff but was upset in the second round by Vacaville Christian. However, the Knights return six including starters Lauren Braga, Morgan Van Elderen and Emily Van Groningen.
“I think this is going to be a good year,” Van Elderen said. “We have been together since middle school and it has all built up to this point.”
Like Van Elderen, Braga is a senior.
“We have all been waiting for this year for a long time,” Braga said. “We are really excited.
“We have a lot of seniors and I think we are going to come out all right.”
The Knights take to the road Tuesday, Aug. 27, to face Bret Harte and then open the SL season Tuesday, Sept. 10, at home against Waterford.