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Ripon advances to 3rd straight semifinal
VB--Calaveras-Ripon pic 1
Madison McCreath of Ripon tips it over the block of Calaveras Alyssa Carlin. - photo by ZARIA GRIFFIN/

RIPON — Calaveras followed up a lackluster first set with a more spirited effort in the second.

Ripon’s Samantha McCreath had seen enough of it.

Sensing the sudden switch in momentum, McCreath wanted to be the one to provide the spark her team needed. She gave it to them, and the top-seeded Indians cruised to a 25-11, 25-16, 25-11 sweep that advances them to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinals for a third straight year.

Eighth-seeded Calaveras (12-10) trailed 8-1 early in Game 2 but threatened to take its first — and only — lead of the match after Alyssa Carlin’s kill tied it at 12-12. Ripon middle Breana Barrios (nine kills, nine blocks) answered with a kill and a block, but Calaveras still didn’t back down.

McCreath delivered the knockout blows. The 5-foot-10 senior swatted three kills to give Ripon a 22-15 cushion, prompting Calaveras coach Pamela DiBasillio to call a timeout. That did little to halt the Indians’ roll, and Makayla Buie eventually slammed the door with a spike.

McCreath showed a rare outburst of emotion after pounding her second kill of the barrage. Her initial spike was dug by Calaveras libero Tanner Pemberton, but McCreath emphatically put it away on the second try with Lauren Weibe (27 assists) delivering the pass.

McCreath finished with a match-high 15 kills. A natural righty, she even put one down with her left hand late in the third game when she received a set that was off the mark.

“We started that second game well but then we got down,” McCreath said. “I knew if I didn’t do anything to get our momentum back up right then nothing would change. I had to step up and try to get our team and our crowd back into it, get more enthusiasm in the game.”

First-year Ripon coach Erin Cutino said her team’s resolve may be its strength. Led by six seniors with a wealth of experience, the Indians (21-4) have showed time and again that they have fight in them no matter the situation.

 “Even if we have a great ability to do that I don’t want to have to keep using it,” Cutino said. “When we get on early I want us to stay on.”

Ripon did a better job of that in the first and third games.

Game 1 went by in a flash, with the Indians dominating despite missing six serves. Of Calaveras’ 11 points, 10 were on unforced errors from Ripon. Jessica Brotherton hammered a kill on an overpass for Calaveras’ only earned point, but Ripon was well ahead, 14-7. Ashlynn Eisenga (21 digs) had all three of her team-high three aces in the opening set and served the final five points of the game.

“We missed a lot of serves and we knew we needed to clean that part up,” Cutino said. “They came out strong (in the second set) and then things kind of just fell off. We had a couple of serve-receive issues, a couple of miscommunication issues, but at the end of the day they rallied back really well. 

“That’s one of my favorite things about them is that if they get down they don’t mentally get down.”

The Indians have a chance to make the title round for the first time since doing so five consecutive years from 2006-2010. They’ll host No. 5 Bear River — which knocked off Ripon’s Trans Valley League rival Escalon in four games — next Tuesday. 

In the last two years, Ripon was swept handily by Hilmar and Sonora in the semifinal round.

“We want it so bad, especially after making the semifinals two years in a row and losing in that fashion,” McCreath said. “With Sonora out of the bracket (now in Division III) we want to take the throne.”