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Manteca hosting familiar foe; Ripon, RC open on the road
VB--SJS playoff seedings file 1
Jessica Stanley of Ripon sends it over the net as Ripon Christians Taylor Anema attempts the block during a nonleague contest between the neighboring rivals. - photo by GARY JENSEN/

Manteca isn’t looking past an opponent it has already swept this season.

The Buffaloes (22-8) are seeded fourth and opens the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs tonight against Los Banos (22-13). 

Meanwhile, Ripon (11-12) heads to Vacaville (19-8) as the 10th seed in Division IV. Ripon Christian (17-14) received the sixth seed in Division VI and travels to Sacramento Country Day (18-5) on Thursday following a first-round bye.

Manteca previously hosted Los Banos in a non-league match on Sept. 5, cruising to a 25-11, 25-19, 25-12 win. Both teams went on to claim league championships; Manteca captured its first Valley Oak League title since 1991, while the Tigers ran the table in the Western Athletic Conference for a second straight year.

“It’s hard to remember back to the preseason, but I do remember they were good,” Manteca coach Kevin Bolding said of Los Banos. “It didn’t surprise me that they went through their league undefeated. They’re (in the playoffs) for a reason. They didn’t back in or anything like that. At this point you throw the seeds out. Let’s play it out and not worry about who is seeded what.”

Mother Lode League champion Sonora is the top-seeded club in Division III. The Wildcats earned three straight titles in Division IV and reached the D-III finals last year, getting swept by current No. 3 seed Christian Brothers. Manteca lost to Sonora in a best-of-three contest 25-19, 20-25, 8-15 during the Stockton Classic.

Also on the Buffaloes’ side of the bracket is No. 9 Oakdale, which split with Manteca in VOL play. A win tonight would set up a home match with either No. 5 Rio Americano or No. 12 Placer.

“In the past it was always teams we don’t know anything about or haven’t seen, but this year we have more teams from the area on our side of the bracket,” Bolding said. “It’s nice to have a high seed because we can get at least two matches at home, but there are some tough teams in our bracket.”

All three teams from the area are facing league champions to start.

Ripon drew Sierra Delta League titlist Vacaville Christian, which had won three consecutive Division V titles before its promotion last season. The Indians are the defending champion in the division after beating Trans-Valley League rival Hilmar in a five-game thriller. 

Ripon has just one returning starter from the 2016 squad but is riding some momentum heading into the postseason, winning eight of its last nine league contests en route to a second-place finish. Hilmar holds the top seed in Division IV, and Mother Lode League runner-up Bret Harte is seeded second and potentially Ripon’s next opponent.

Winners of nine straight in the Southern Athletic League, Ripon Christian looks to keep it rolling after having its streak of league titles end at six. If the Knights can pull off a mild upset of Sacramento Country Day, the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League champion, they’d likely face No. 2-seeded Big Valley Christian.

Top-seeded Woodland Christian is a heavy favorite to win a third straight Division VI crown.