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Ripon hangs tough before falling
volleyball  TUES
Devon Denhart of Ripon sets the ball as twins Madison (15) and Samantha (10) McCreath stay ready to hit. - photo by STU JOSSEY/The Bulletin

TRACY — Adrienne Beltrami hoped to break up Karina Rodriguez’s rhythm at the service line by calling a timeout for Ripon, which then trailed 14-9 in Game 3 of Monday’s non-league affair with large-school power Tracy.

Rodriguez’s response? An ace.

Hannah Presley extended the flurry with a thunderous spike following another timeout, and Lauren Arena’s kill punctuated Rodriguez’s 15-point service run and a sweep (25-22, 25-16, 25-9) for the Bulldogs.

Ripon (7-4) initially hung tough with one of the region’s top large-school programs but was done in by mini scoring bursts in the first two games. The third set was a letdown for the Indians, who have just a day to recover before squaring off with Trans-Valley League rival Escalon.

“I believe that we can compete, and I believe that if we play our game that we can beat Tracy,” Beltrami said. “Tracy is a very strong team. Against a tough team with more than one good hitter, with a good defense and setters who can move the ball around, you cannot let them go on little four- or five-point runs. The unforced errors, that’s the difference. It changes the momentum and it’s really hard to come back.”

The big run at the end stole the show.

Rodriguez, a sophomore with a devastating jump serve, finished with five aces to go with 14 assists and 10 digs.

“You would think it’s tiring doing it over and over again but after hitting those certain spots that your coach tells you to, the confidence just kind of pushes me and the adrenaline gets you going,” Rodriguez said. “The more tired you get the more focused you are, so at the beginning of each serve I just regrouped and focused on my routine.”

While Ripon had its struggles with serve receives, it was also kept off balanced by Tracy’s depth of hitters. Presley led all players with 11 kills and also had 14 assists. Hard-swinging Grace Murphy contributed six kills and 14 digs, and Lauren Arena had five kills and three blocks.

Ripon did not appear to be intimidated at the start. Tracy (10-3) — No. 15 in the California Division II state rankings, according to MaxPreps — staved off a late charge from the Indians to take the first set. In the second, Ripon led 3-0 before the home team tallied nine of the next 10 points.

Samantha McCreath (six kills) had her moments, including back-to-back kills to start Game 2 for Ripon, but for the most part the Indians’ front line could not get untracked. Breana Barrios did have a good match defensively with nine blocks. Stephanie Petlansky chipped in 12 assists, Sarah DeFreitas had eight digs and Ashley Eisenga served two aces.

“When we were passing well and we were able to set our front row we were winning,” Beltrami said. “We’d get into a little groove but we had a really hard time with serve receive tonight. In those situations you can’t really get into a flow if you’re not setting your front row and the ball stays behind the 10-foot line.”

The hope for Beltrami is that her team learns from the experience. Ripon fared better in a four-set defeat to Sonora two weeks ago. Sonora is the state’s defending champion in Division IV.

“The point of scheduling teams like Sonora and Tracy is to see good competition,” Beltrami said. “It gets us ready for the tough competition in the TVL and the playoffs. We see how we match up, what we need to improve on and where we are.”

Big Valley 3,
Ripon Christian 2

The Knights suffered a tough non-league loss Monday in Modesto.

The Lions (4-3) of the Central California Athletic Association rebounded from an embarrassing game No. 3 loss to claim the match over the Knights.

At that point, Ripon Christian (5-9) held 2-1 edge in games. But Big Valley won a tough Game 4 and took the match by being the first to reach 15 points in the decisive Game 5.

The Knights were edged out, 25-14, 19-25, 25-7, 23-25, 5-15.