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Knights in position to secure another SAL crown after sweeping Orestimba
Orestimba-Ripon Christian girls volleyball
Leah Van Wyngarden lays out for the dig during Ripon Christian’s ‘Dig Pink’ match with visiting Orestimba on Thursday. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

Leah Van Wyngarden and the rest of the Ripon Christian girls volleyball team were on their game Thursday against visiting Orestimba.

The battle for first place in the Southern Athletic League wasn’t much of one, as the Knights rolled 25-15, 25-11, 25-6. The match doubled as a Dig Pink event supporting breast cancer awareness.

“I knew we were going to have big crowd out here tonight, and this is also one of our biggest rivals,” Van Wyngarden said. “I wanted to play my best for my team and for everybody who showed up tonight.”

It was fittingly Van Wyngarden who was at the service line in the end. She served the final nine points and picked up three of her match-high seven aces during that closing run. The versatile senior also had seven kills and nine digs.

Ripon Christian (10-0 SAL, 23-2 overall) as a team netted 15 aces against just four service errors.

“Our team really focused on serving and serve-receive passing, and that’s what we worked on a lot in our last practice,” Van Wyngarden said. “Our coach really wants us to be more consistent with our serves, so I just tried to keep it in and it worked out.”

Jordan Vander Veen led the attack with 12 kills and three aces. Middle hitter Sydney Hoffman contributed 10 kills, continuing her remarkable efficiency at the net. She’s the state leader with a 0.541 hitting percentage. On Thursday, she finished with a 0.643 hitting percentage and got kills on 71.4% of her attempts.

Megan Weststeyn orchestrated the offense and totaled 33 assists. Libero Allison Brown chipped in with seven digs and two aces.

The Weststeyn-Hoffman combo got started early, hooking up for six kills in the opening set.

“It all starts with our back row,” Hoffman said. “It helps to have girls like Leah and Allison there, and of course our setter. I couldn’t do it without her. I know she will put it where it needs to be.”

Orestimba (8-2, 20-8) was led by Olivia Gray’s 11 kills. Ripon Christian’s varied attack, aggressive serving and back-row defense were just too much for the Warriors.

“I told them before the game we need to be on our toes,” RC coach Kayla Kootstra said. “(Orestimba) is a good team. Their passing is always solid, and the last time we played them they really made us work for it. Tonight, I think we were able to take them out of their game a little bit, which was unexpected.”

Although it’s not yet mathematically clinched with still four matches remaining, the Knights have a clear path to fifth straight SAL championship. They end the regular season Oct. 19 at third-place Le Grand, which could only muster nine total points in its first meeting with Ripon Christian.

RC is nearing the end of a dominant run in the SAL. The Knights are closing in on a 13th league title in their 13 years in the SAL, not counting the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season.

Thursday’s match is Ripon Christian and Orestimba’s last as SAL counterparts. That’s because next year, both schools are joining the talent-rich Trans-Valley League.

“I think it’s great we’ll be going (into the TVL) together,” Kootstra said. “I know that our programs have had a fun rivalry and we’ll just get to carry it over. I’m sure we’ll develop other rivalries just because of the geographic closeness and history (with current TVL schools), but it’s fun to get the opportunity to go into the TVL with Orestimba. I’ve always enjoyed playing them, and (coach) Carlee (Felber) does a great job with her team.”