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Ripon Christian again seeded fourth for NorCal tourney
Players and coaches from Ripon Christians volleyball team flash five fingers for cameras after claiming their fifth straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V championship at The Pavilion of UC Davis Thursday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Ripon Christian will make its fifth straight appearance in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships today.

And for the fifth straight year the Knights (27-10) are seeded fourth.

It’s a good news-bad news situation for RC, which gets to host its first-round NorCal contest but has a potential quarterfinal matchup with two-time defending Division-V champion Branson (36-1). Ripon Christian has won three of its past four NorCal openers but hasn’t gotten past the top seed.

Coach Tiger Shelton isn’t looking past No. 3 Woodside Priory (25-5), though. The match starts at 7 tonight.

“I was upset,” Shelton said about his reaction to receiving the No. 4 seed again. “I know that Pete Saco (commissioner of the CIF’s Sac-Joaquin Section) fought for us and he did a good job of explaining to me why we are where we’re at.

“The other side of it is you have to beat the best at some point, but we really can’t look that far ahead. It’s not going to be a walk in the park (tonight). If we pull it off it’s going to be a battle.”

Woodside Priory hails from Portola Valley and is the Central Coast Section’s Division-V runner-up to NorCal No. 3 Castilleja (20-14) of Palo Alto. Ripon Christian twice defeated Castilleja in best-of-three contests in the NorCal Division-V Showcase tournament in September, giving Shelton reason to believe that his Knights deserve no lower than the No. 3 seed.

Woodside has the weapons to keep the Knights on their toes, chiefly 5-foot-11 sophomore outside hitter Marine Hall-Poirier, who plays for Shelton’s club volleyball team. Hall-Poirier is the Panthers’ leading hitter with 3.6 kills per game and is second in digs with a 2.6 average.

Middle blocker Briana Willhite (3.4 kills), 6-footer Ciara Johnson (2.7 kills, 2.0 digs), senior setter Alyssa Gutman-Green (9 assists) and sophomore libero Michaela Koval (3.7 digs) are other standouts.

“Woodside is a very good, very well-rounded team,” Shelton said. “They’ll give us all that we can handle and probably more. We’re going to have to play good to win.”