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RC overcomes poor start to nab 5th straight title
The ball drops toward the floor after Ripon Christians Andie Shelton (11) stuffs the spike of Bradshaw Christian standout Janai Johnson. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

DAVIS — For the fifth straight year, the Ripon Christian Knights are the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V volleyball champions.

They earned the title Thursday by taking care of Bradshaw Christian in four sets, 17-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-7.

For the past three years, the two teams have met in the section finals at UC Davis’ Rec Center. But RC’s title reign at Division V now means being moved up.

“We’ll have to be ready to play Division IV (volleyball) starting next season,” said Knights coach Tiger Shelton.

Ripon Christian (25-10) had its share of ups and downs against Bradshaw Christian (13-16) of the Sierra Delta League. The Pride, led by Janai Johnson, who also plays on Shelton’s club team, overcame an early deficit by stringing together a 20-8 run. They surged ahead on a 9-1 rally orchestrated by Johnson, a middle blocker, and outside hitter Rachael Byerly.

“We were a little concerned after dropping that first set,” said Knights sophomore setter Andie Shelton.

Her coach and father noted that his squad had followed a familiar postseason pattern of slow starts.

“It could’ve been nerves or the facility,” he said.

After that, the Knights coach made adjustments.

“Janai was amazing in that first set,” he said. “So we wanted to spread the court and try tiring her out.”

Shelton added: “Andie did a great job of pushing the ball and moving (the action) side to side.”

The second set had the looks of two teams battling it out while characterized by nine ties. Deadlocked at 20, the Pride got called for two crucial ball-handling violations. That, along with a pair of blocks scored by RC sophomore Teagan Manus, was enough to even up the match at 1-1.

In the third set, Bradshaw Christian jumped out to 6-1 lead.

The Knights answered back on Andie Shelton’s sets and serves. She fed senior outside hitter Mikaela Alger on three straight kills and also scored on a tip shot.

From the service line, Andie Shelton scored on three aces while setting up Brittany Petlansky for a pair of spikes.

Ripon Christian then reeled off eight straight points thanks to the play of senior outside hitters Morgan and Mikaela Alger, going ahead for good.

Offensively, Mikaela tallied 13 kills and nine blocks and Morgan chipped in with eight kills.

“Once we fell behind, we knew what we had to do,” Mikaela Alger said.

Added Morgan, “In the end, we were able to seal the deal and pull away.”

RC jumped out to a huge 10-1 lead in the decisive fourth set, with Stephanie Vande Pol and Kristie Van Diver serving up the points and Mikaela Alger, Morgan Alger, Vande Pol, and Shelton leading the charge up front.

The Pride got cited for numerous handling infractions while making unforced errors, including one that accounted for match point.

For the Knights, Andie Shelton finished with 25 assists, five kills and four aces. Vande Pol contributed with seven assists and seven blocks. Kaylie Colyn had 24 digs.

Byerly led Bradshaw Christian with 17 kills and Johnson had 15 kills and five blocks.

Both teams will advance to next week’s NorCal tournament, with RC hosting its opening-round match on Tuesday. Brackets will be posted on the California Interscholastic Federation website ( by 4 p.m. Sunday.