HILMAR – Emily Baptista and Hilmar knocked Ripon out of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV volleyball playoffs with a 25-18, 25-14, 25-21 sweep.
“She is a great player,” Ripon coach Adrienne Beltrami said of the Yellowjackets’ junior catalyst. “We definitely know that we have to try and stop her and try to capitalize when she goes in the back row. We did not do either one of those and we had a hard time blocking her.
“It is really hard when somebody hits the ball at you that hard. It has been fun to watch her play and we get to see her one more year.”
The first and third sets were competitive. By the time the score was 8-8 in the first game it had been tied six times with two lead changes.
Enter Baptista. She had two kills to put Hilmar (38-8) ahead 10-8 and six of seven points via three kills and three aces to help the Yellowjackets build an 18-11 lead.
They would not trail again until the start of the third game.
“I definitely expected us to battle a lot more,” Beltrami said. “I didn’t think we were going to be out in three. We have seen Hilmar twice in league play and we knew they were a good program and I thought we were really well prepared.”
The Indians (20-11) had straight-sets victories over Central Catholic and Calaveras in the first two playoff contests before running up against Hilmar.
“We have been playing really, really well, especially in the playoffs,” Beltrami said. “I expected a different outcome. I don’t know if I expected a win or a loss, but I did not expect us to go out in three.
“I thought it could have been anyone’s game tonight, but we just had a lot of unforced errors, and we have not been playing that way. We have not been struggling on serve-receive, and you cannot have that many unforced errors.”
Ripon took an early lead in the third set and ran that lead to 14-8 due in large part to the play of sophomore Samantha McCreath. The first two points of the game came from McCreath via a kill and an ace and in that 14-8 run she had two kills, two aces and a block. She finished with eight kills, two blocks and two aces.
“It was amazing that we were able to give a fight to such a good team,” McCreath said. “But we got ourselves into too big of a hole and it is hard to fight back from that.”
A pair of aces helped the Yellowjackets draw within 14-11 and three consecutive kills by Baptista tied the score at 15-15. Hilmar took the lead on the next point and never looked back.
“There were times when we were up by four or five points and then they would come back,” Beltrami said. “Once that happens it is really hard emotionally and mentally to come back from that.”
Emily O’Brien had 15 digs for the Indians. Lauren Wiebe added 25 assists and Karisa Carlson six kills.
Baptista had 18 kills, 17 digs, seven aces. She recorded the final point of Game 1 with a kill and the final two points of the second set with a pair of aces.
“She is a gift,” Yellowjackets coach Patti Harris said. “We call her, ‘The Finisher.’”