RIPON — Thirteen days after giving birth to her first child, head coach Adrienne Beltrami returned to the sidelines Tuesday to lead Ripon in its first-round match against No. 13 seed Central Catholic in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.
“You think I was going to miss this?” Beltrami said.
Once the sixth-seeded Indians got going, they didn’t miss much. After falling behind 6-1 in the opening set, Ripon rolled to an emphatic 25-16, 25-20, 25-13 sweep.
Ripon (19-10) scored 10 unanswered points during Game 1 with senior middle Karisa Carlson and sophomore outside hitter Samantha McCreath taking turns doling out big kills. In the third game, the Indians mounted a 10-0 lead and never looked back.
“We were a little bit hyped up,” Carlson said. “We just needed to take a deep breath, relax and then get into our groove. Coach tells us we have to talk and set our own pace, because if we’re playing their game it’s not going to work out.”
Ripon was on its game following the slow start and began to wear down Central Catholic (16-10), a team that relies on air-tight defense and forces opponents into making mistakes. Beltrami instructed her players to exercise patience. Eventually, the Raiders’ back-row coverage would show cracks.
“Sometimes you have to just place the ball and keep it in play, and then wait for your moment to cream it,” Beltrami said. “That’s what we did really well tonight. There were a lot of times where we just had to put the ball over and then when we got an opportunity to set a quick ball we put it away.”
Central Catholic had no answer for the quick-set combination from sophomores Lauren Wiebe (40 assists) and Breana Barrios (12 kills, three blocks). But the player of the match was McCreath (19 kills, 21 digs), who had moments of dominant play whether she was pounding away at Central’s defense or keeping plays alive with her quick reflexes in the back row. Senior libero Emily O’Brien also had 21 digs.
“She was phenomenal tonight,” Beltrami said of McCreath. “She’s a stellar athlete and she’s only a sophomore so it’s pretty exciting. You can put her anywhere and she’ll get the job done.
“We’ve been really pleased with what she’s been doing and she listens well. When she’s in the air I’ll yell at her where to hit and she’ll turn on it.”
Beltrami has been so encouraged by her team’s improvement over the course of the season that she can’t wait for the next one. On Thursday the Indians travel to No. 3 Calaveras, which opened with a 25-11, 25-11, 25-18 win over Highlands. Ripon looks to advance to the semifinal round for the first time in Beltrami’s four years as coach.
“Everything has come together for us this last month, everything that we’ve been working on,” Beltrami said. “Sometimes that’s a lot better than starting off that way and trying to keep it. We had to change some things and work through a lot and it makes this that much more enjoyable. The kids have put the work in.
“Mentally we’re ready. We’re ready for Thursday. Let’s go. We’re ready to go.”