RIPON — Ripon head coach Erin Cutino has wanted to see more fervor out of her young team.
Thursday’s rivalry match with visiting Ripon Christian may have been just what the Indians needed, as they dominated from start to finish and never trailed until early in the third set of a 25-8, 25-21, 25-12 sweep.
“We have a quiet team, and the energy they brought onto the court tonight was really good to see,” Cutino said. “They were excited and motivated for this one.”
It was an encouraging effort for the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV champions, who dropped five of their first six matches of the season against accomplished programs from bigger schools. Facing Ripon Christian (0-4), the defending Southern League champion, things came more easily for the Indians.
“We have a really young team, so I wanted to give them a really tough preseason to expose them to things that we need to work on in practice,” Cutino said. “The girls have really responded and grown so much in the last few weeks alone. It’s nice to play teams at our level and feel like we’re in a really good flow now.”
It didn’t take long to get into a flow Thursday.
The tone was set for both teams when Ripon Christian gave up the first point on a serving error, the first of seven for the Knights. Ripon’s Mia Van Lewen (four kills, two aces, two blocks) followed with a kill, Jessica Stanley (seven kills, five blocks) then came up with a solo block and the rout was on. The Indians led 5-0 before Ripon Christian called a timeout, and Makayla Buie’s ace capped off their match-starting seven-point run.
Buie ended the opening set with a kill from the back row. She finished with seven kills, 10 digs and five aces.
“We had a lot of serving errors tonight, and we typically do well with our serves,” Ripon Christian coach Jocelyn Benziger said. “I think the different energy of this crowd was and the atmosphere threw us out of our game.”
Ripon continued its roll in the second game, twice leading by as much as seven. Paige Vos (six kills, two assists) inspired a late comeback attempt for the Knights with a powerful spike that drew them in, 20-14. She then served five straight points, including an ace, and Taylor Anema’s block of Van Lewen dwindled Ripon’s once-comfortable lead to 21-20.
Ripon Christian stymied its own comeback threat with a four-hit violation, and Van Lewen helped turn the tide back to Ripon’s favor with back-to-back aces.
Ripon Christian took its first lead of the match in Game 3 when Mackenzie Miller (seven kills) delivered an ace to make it 4-3. The Knights had two more one-point leads before Ripon took over with a six-point service runs from libero Deven Stokes (17 digs) and Buie. Shannon Johnson (seven assists) ended the match with three consecutive aces.
Rachel Sausedo contributed 15 assists to the win for Ripon, and Mia Benzinger had 13 digs. Cutino was pleased to get contributions by many players with little drop-off in performance despite constant lineup changes.
“We have a pretty deep team and a lot of girls who can do a lot of different things,” Cutino said. “Our players are very versatile this year, so we can change things mid-game if we need to. We’re still learning but it’s really exciting to see them come around.”
Libero Bethany Silveira led Ripon Christian with 14 digs, and setter Taylor Alger dished out 15 assists.
Like Ripon, the Knights scheduled tough opponents to prepare for league play. They begin their defense of the SL championship next Monday against visiting Delhi.
“In the long run, I hope we’re a little more prepared,” Bengizer said. “It hasn’t been easy, but they know what it takes now. We got to see some faster-paced offenses going into league.”
Ripon Christian 2, Ripon 1
Ripon Christian prevailed in a well-contested rivalry showdown, 25-21, 22-25, 15-12.
Coach Monique DeJong lauded her team’s tough defense and ball movement. Setters Ariel Vander Woude and Morgan Van Elderen led the way. Sarah Brown and Charlotte teVelde were the Knights’ back-row standouts.
Ripon was anchored by outside hitter Caryssa McKeon, setter Mia Ponsiano and middle blocker Sydney Thomason.