MODESTO – Strike three and you are out.
Ripon Christian’s Allison Brown toed the service line Saturday afternoon with her No. 2 Knights three points from claiming their fourth consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section title. She not only got those three points, she pounded out three aces to give Ripon Christian a 25-21, 25-9, 25-19 win over top-seeded Ripon for the coveted Division IV blue banner at Modesto Junior College.
The last three titles for the Knights were at Division V and they were moved up to Division IV this year due to the SJS Continued Success protocol. It’s the 19th championship overall for Ripon Christian, which leads the section.
“When I came in to serve that last time I was really hyped up on adrenaline,” said Brown, who finished with four aces and nine digs. “I was really excited and honestly just wanted to go out there and serve my hardest and did it.”
Brown’s serving was not the only nifty serving for Ripon Christian (32-5). After the first-set 24-21 Knights victory that saw seven ties and two lead changes, the second set was starting the same way with four ties already when Jordan Vander Veen (13 digs, 11 kills, five aces) took her first serve at 5-4. She went on a 12-point service run behind four aces to put Ripon Christian ahead 17-4 before coasting to the 22-9 win. The Knights would not trail again.
“I came into the game a little anxious and excited,” Vander Veen said. “There were a lot of nerves in the beginning and we started a little slow but that wore off.”
After the thumping the Indians (30-6) took in the second set, they did not go quietly in the third. Ripon trailed 16-12 and battled back to within 21-19, due in large part to six kills by Katherine Eskes (10 kills).
“We were just trying to get some momentum back in that third set,” Eskes said. “I was playing for my teammates and trying to help the team in any way I could.”
Ripon Christian’s Sydney Hoffman put up two blocks and seven kills with most of those kills coming off of short sets from Megan Weststeyn.
“We wanted to run our offense much quicker this game,” Hoffman said. “And it worked out really well.”
Weststeyn totaled 29 assists.
“She (Hoffman) is a very competitive hitter,” Weststeyn said. “She puts the ball away really nicely. So when I put the ball up to her I know it’s going to be a kill or a really, really hard ball for them to get.”
Weststeyn tallied three kills and three blocks as well.
“It’s fun being aggressive at the net,” Weststeyn said. “Even though I am typically a setter I still like to get aggressive and put the ball down, too.”
Ripon Christian’s Leah Van Wyngarden added 11 digs and six kills.
“Our team played well,” Knights coach Kayla Kootstra said. “We executed and even when we weren’t in our game play, I think we just really wanted this game. You could see that in the effort, play and what we were doing on our side. Ripon is a very good team, and if I’m being honest, I thought we had a good shot at winning, but I did not expect it to be a sweep. I’m really proud of our girls and the grit and determination they showed today.
“Our serving game was on today, especially in the second set. We served tough all year and we did a good job of executing our game plan, which took them out of their game. They were not able to do the things they wanted to do because of our serve.”
Ripon committed seven unforced errors in the first two sets before Ripon Christian committed its first in the third set.
“I have said it before,” Indians coach Gregory Soliz said. “Whoever can serve and pass will win the game, and they won the serve-and-pass battle. That was the difference. We were out of system all the time. We couldn’t get anything going. We couldn’t get a rhythm going because we struggled.
“We played hard, but they were in system a little bit more than us.”
Ripon’s Adriana Dorn posted eight kills, six digs and an ace. Kylee Fulmer (five kills, three aces dig), Kailee Inderbitzin (five blocks), Reagan Wilkerson (19 assists, four digs, three aces), Olivia Neuman (seven blocks, kill), Kaya Whitaker (eight assists, four digs) and Katelyn Bogetti (six blocks, four kills) rounded out the Indians attack.
The two teams now await the release of the NorCal CIF brackets on Sunday for Tuesday’s NorCal opener.