ESCALON – The volleyball season came to a halt for the Ripon High Indians.
Escalon defeated the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV champions in three sets Thursday, 25-19, 25-20, 25-21.
“We were confident coming in,” said Ripon coach Adrienne Uecker. “We were playing good volleyball – we had improved during the season.”
The Cougars, however, believe their time is now.
They won the Trans Valley League without surrendering a set. Escalon hopes to follow the same pattern of success in the playoff as that of last year’s Indians.
“Our goal is to go to Davis (for the section championships) next week,” said Cougars setter Shaylynn Beam, who grew up in Ripon. “We’re focused.”
But in order to get there, Escalon (24-6) must get past likely foe Sonora of the Valley Oak League on Tuesday.
Against Ripon (16-15), the Cougars came out ready to play. Early on, Cassidy Caton, Megan Faria, and Samantha Shipley each delivered kills.
The Indians fought back. They tied things up twice thanks to a block by Chelsea Ioppini and a hitting error by Escalon.
The Cougars surged back on top behind the serving of Beam, who delivered an ace, Faria, Nicole Bianchi and Samantha Shipley.
“Samantha played her best game of the year,” said Escalon coach Teresa Williamson. “We got good play from our ‘middles’ and our right side hitters – that gave us another option.”
Shipley had two blocks and Faria and Caton were both credited with eight kills.
In addition, Beam managed 26 assists and Bianchi tallied 26 digs.
Despite a block and a pair of no-look drop shots by Lizzy Nizzoli coupled with kills by Rose Beeler and Alyssa Leslie, Ripon trailed 15-7 in the second set.
The Indians fell back even further on hitting and serving mistakes, with Escalon staking out a commanding 22-13 lead after an ace by Bianchi and kill and block by Shipley and Adalia Cajias, respectively.
Ripon reeled off four straight points on Nizzoli’s drop shot and the three straight aces served up by Paige Burrell.
Beeler had two more kills to trim the deficit, 24-19.
Game point came on a Ripon service fault.
Down 2-0, the Indians came out strong on the third set. “We waited too long to adjust to what (Escalon) was doing,” Uecker said.
Mariah Cardenas, who served up six straight points, had three aces while Paige Horwood added two kills in the decisive third set.
Escalon erased a 15-8 deficit by tying the set at 17-17.
Ripon went back on top, 20-17. Beeler had a kill and put-back shot and Nizzoli scored on yet another no-look drop shot.
Behind Bianchi’s serving, the Cougars then reeled off six straight including the match point.
“Escalon is a great team and Teresa is a great coach,” Uecker said. “We lost to a great team (in the playoffs).”
Beeler, who didn’t play volleyball last year, took the loss hard.
“I’m going to miss playing for this team,” she said. “We had improved so much over the season.”