RIPON — Ripon Christian had a successful season last year, but it ended on a bitter note.
The Knights finished with two straight losses, one against Bear River in the Sac-Joaquin Joaquin Section Division IV championship and the second against Sacred Heart Prep Atherton in the first round of the CIF Nor-Cal Division IV tournament.
It was the Knights’ first loss in the section final in six years, but it was also their first time competing in the D-IV playoffs after winning five straight D-V titles under former coach Tiger Shelton (Modesto JC).
Now, RC will turn to co-coaches Michele Shelton and Kara Ledeboer to lead the program, and help it maintain championship form.
Having returning senior Andie Shelton, one of the nation’s top setters who is verbally committed to play at the University of the Pacific in 2014, should help.
“A section championship is obviously the goal,” said Michelle Shelton, who was RC’s varsity co-coach the last four years and a Delta Valley Club competitive coach as well. “Winning the (Southern League) would be really nice, but right now we’re just looking at one thing at a time. We need to get our team together and win league and then focus on sections.”
Ripon Christian has a few returners that will compensate for last year’s losses to graduation. Andie, along with senior Teagan Manus and Gregori (Modesto) transfer Amber Hilvers, will be three of the Knights’ key components in making a run at its sixth section championship banner.
Hilvers, who attended Ripon Christian Schools through eighth grade, previously lived in Salida, but her family has since relocated back to Ripon.
Newly-hired co-coach Ledeboer, who played a year of collegiate volleyball at Dordt College, can’t help but be excited about her club’s talent level.
“Coming in as a new coach, it’s really exciting to see the potential a lot of the players have,” Ledeboer said. “I think we’ll do well. Section championships are always a goal, so I guess the ultimate goal is a state championship, right?”
This will be Ledeboer’s first season as a varsity volleyball coach. She hails from Sioux City, Iowa and is a middle school/high school arts teacher at Ripon Christian.
RC will open its season on Aug. 30 on the road against Rocklin. The Knights will face cross-town rival Ripon on Sept. 3 and then will be at Modesto Christian two days later.
The Knights will have their first home game against Escalon on Sept. 12 and will open Southern League play at home against Denair Sept. 18.
“I think the team is going to have good chemistry,” Ledeboer said. “We a couple of tough tournaments, but I’m excited for the season.”
So is coach Shelton.
“To have a player like Andie that has the ability that she has just encourages the other players on the team to be successful,” coach Shelton concluded.