Hilmar knew what was coming, but there was no stopping Ripon’s Samantha McCreath in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV volleyball finals.
Already the top player in the Manteca area, McCreath put any sort of debate to rest with an individual effort for the ages. The Indians were on the cusp of a disappointing loss to a familiar foe they had already beaten twice in Trans-Valley League play, down 16-10 and two games to one in the fourth set.
First-year coach Erin Cutino turned to her star player to tilt the momentum in their favor.
“After coach Cutino said ‘get it to Sam,’ I was just trying to do everything I could to get my team back into it,” McCreath said. “I didn’t want to lose to Hilmar after we beat them twice. I was just trying to do my job to help the team out.”
McCreath spearheaded a staggering 15-1 rally with 11 kills to force a fifth set, and then scored seven of the Indians’ points in the title-clinching game. Ripon won the thriller 27-29, 25-22, 22-25, 25-17, 15-12 and claimed the fourth SJS title for the program, its first since 2010.
The 5-foot-10 outside hitter and Central Connecticut State signee totaled a whopping 47 kills, 21 digs and 13 blocks. She’s the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Volleyball MVP.
“For Hilmar it was their fourth straight time there (in the SJS Division IV finals) and they really wanted to beat us,” McCreath said. “It just made it an even bigger deal. I’ve never been in a match like that where every point mattered as much as it did.”
After sweeping Sutter in the opening round of the CIF State Division IV Northern California Regional Championships, the Indians (24-5) had their season end with a four-game loss — 24-26, 25-19, 25-16, 25-17 — loss to fourth-seeded Branson of Ross. The defeat did little to spoil what Ripon had already accomplished up to that point.
It took six years for the Indians to return to a section championship match. In McCreath’s first two years at the varsity level, they were eliminated in the semifinals.
“We definitely wanted to go as far as we could, but I wasn’t really disappointed because we lost to a really good team,” McCreath said. “Other than that, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out for my senior year.”
Ripon went undefeated in TVL play, and for her dominance and all-around talents McCreath was named the Most Valuable Player of the year. For the year, she finished with 325 kills, 69 blocks and 244 digs. Joining her on the All-TVL first team are libero Ashlynn Eisenga, middle blocker Breana Barrios, setter Lauren Wiebe and twin sister Madison McCreath.
“It couldn’t have happened without the support of my teammates and coaches, and it’s something I’ve wanted since my sophomore year,” McCreath said. “I was happy that my hard work had paid off.
“Me, Ash, Lauren and Breana were on the (varsity) team together since sophomore year and we’re all really close friends. They were like my family.”
She’ll spend the next few months enjoying every moment with them before graduation, but she won’t be alone as she heads to the East Coast for college. Joining her there will be Eisenga, her best friend with whom she signed on the same day.
“I’m going so far away and leaving home for the first time, but I get to bring a big part of Ripon with me,” McCreath said. “It’s comforting knowing I’ll have her there with me and so exciting.”