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Ripon Christian has its way with 1st-place team in Southern League
VB--Orestimba-Ripon Christian pic 1
Ripon Christian middle Mackenzie Miller (5) gets challenged at the net by Orestimbas Kaitlyn Gray (8). - photo by Photo by Stu Jossey

RIPON — Ripon Christian still has some say in the Southern Athletic League.

The six-time defending champion remains in the hunt for another title after a resounding 25-23, 25-10, 25-18 win over Orestimba on Monday.  Ripon Christian (9-2, 16-14 overall) avenged a four-game loss to the Warriors (10-1, 16-10) — who had a chance to clinch at least a share of the championship — and now trail the SAL leaders by one match with three to go.

The Knights have been on a tear since dropping two of their first four league matches. There is still work to be done and they’ll need some help along the way to secure at least a piece of the crown. Ripon Christian’s next opponent, Mariposa (8-3, 8-10), is also vying for one of three Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths. Orestimba’s final two opponents, Mariposa and Le Grand, are tied for third place.

“I feel like we have the tools to beat them the first time, we were just adjusting to a new team concept and new game play that some of them are still adapting to,” Ripon Christian coach Jocelyn Benziger said. “As we’re working through it and melding together as a team, I feel like we’re going to be really hard to stop. I think they are trying to prove that they should probably still be in that (top) position.”

Ripon Christian left little doubt on Monday

Fourth-year varsity player Paige Vos was fittingly the one who hammered the nail in the coffin in the final two sets, coming through with two of her match-high 18 kills. After a competitive first game, Vos set the tone early in the second with seven kills that helped the Knights stake a commanding 8-2 lead.

“Coming into it we were a little bit skeptical because they had beat us once, but we dug in,” Vos said. “We talked about how it’s a mental game; you have to plug in and tell yourself that you can do it and that’s what we did.

“We’ve definitely improved. We had a rough start, but we’ve really taken off. We’re riding that high right now.”

Junior middle blocker Mackenzie Miller also had some big moments. She blasted an Orestimba overpass for the final point of Game 1, then opened a second with another kill off a quick set from Taylor Alger (33 assists). Miller finished with 10 kills, four aces and a solo block.

“Being able to have hitters all the way around just gives us so many more options, especially with a good setter like Taylor,” Vos said. “When we have everyone going we are able to run anything.”

Strong serving was also key for the Knights, who racked up 13 aces against just four service errors. It was tied 11-11 in the third game until Bethany Silveira (16 digs, five aces) went on a six-point service run that included four aces. 

“They were actually hitting to the spots that I was giving them, and it was causing some miscommunication on (Orestimba’s) side of the court,” Benziger said. “It made a difference.”