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Ripon starts league in 0-2 hole
Inconsistency hampers defending champ
Ripon Highs Siera Daggett tips it over the block of visiting Escalons Megan Faria, left, and Adalia Cajias Monday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

RIPON — Ripon High was hardly challenged in racking up the last five championships in the Trans-Valley League.

If the Indians are to extend that streak, they’ll have to do it the hard way.

Early conference favorite Escalon visited Monday and handed them their second straight three-game loss (11-25, 14-25, 14-25). On Sept. 19 they travelled to Hilmar top open the TVL and were swept but played more competitively.

The good news for Ripon (0-2, 5-7 overall) is that there are winnable matches ahead, starting with Wednesday’s contest at Hughson. On Oct. 12 is its rematch with Hilmar, a team the Indians swept in the Golden Valley Tournament.

“We need to go on a little winning streak here, get some momentum going as well as some confidence,” said Ripon coach Adrienne Uecker. “Hilmar and Escalon are good teams, and matches with Escalon are high-intensity rivalry situations.

“But I know in my heart we can beat these teams, it’s just a matter of putting it together. We have our moments of brilliance; we just need to start doing it consistently.”

Ripon’s play was contingent on its passing, especially on serve receives. Three of Escalon’s first five points in Game 3 were aces, and two of them hit the floor uncontested.

“They didn’t make a lot of errors and we made a ton,” Uecker said. “When we passed that ball, it was going to be a kill. We put balls down tonight, but our serve receive just wasn’t there.”

Late in the match, the Indians unraveled all around.

They forced Escalon to earn some of its point midway through the third game with some spirited rallies, but the backbreaker came when a rotation violation negated a well-struck kill by Paige Horwood. Instead of closing in 14-17, Ripon fell further behind 13-18 and would get no closer.

Escalon kept it going with Megan Faria’s kill. The rest of its points were from Ripon’s unforced errors — four hitting miscues, and back-to-back double touches. Uecker called a timeout during that stretch with hopes of stopping the bleeding, but to no avail.

“I told them in that last timeout that when we put the ball into the net we’re not giving the other side a chance to make an error,” she said.

Escalon (2-0, 10-6) was led by its only two seniors: all-league returners Shaylynn Beam (24 kills) and Nicole Bianchi (17 digs). Faria added 13 kills.

Horwood turned in six kills and six digs for Ripon. Madison Allen had 23 assists, and Paige Burrell picked up a team-high 15 digs.