RIPON — We are barely two weeks into the volleyball season and Ripon has already lined up across from Sonora three times.
Don’t be surprised if they meet for a fourth down the road.
Ripon came up with its biggest victory under second-year head coach Adrienne Uecker Tuesday night, beating the defending Valley Oak League champion Wildcats in an intense four-game battle — 25-16, 23-25, 25-19, 25-21.
The two clubs previously squared off in a scrimmage in Sonora on Aug. 18. And this past Saturday, Sonora (7-4) dispatched Ripon a two-set sweep by scores of 19-25, 15-25 in the High Sierra Tournament in Reno.
The Indians (3-3) were out to make a statement Tuesday. With the win, they may have put themselves on the short list of contenders, which includes Sonora, for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.
“We definitely did (make a statement),” said Ripon standout setter Lizzy Nizzoli. “We came in thinking that we were the underdog and that they probably see it as, ‘OK, we’ve already beaten them, so let’s just get the easy win and go home.’”
“We felt like we had to show who we really are and how well we can play.”
Ripon was in full control of the opening set, taking an early 10-3 advantage and thrice led by as much as 11 — 21-9, 22-11, 23-12 — before Nizzoli sealed it with a kill.
Game 2 was more of an indication of what was to come. Ripon trailed 12-18 at one point but, an assisted block from Leslie and Nizzoli drew the Indians in, 20-21. They eventually took a 22-21 lead on a serve receive error before Sonora was able to close the door to extend the match.
Ripon recaptured the momentum in the third set, as Emily Brutout and Nizzoli clinched it with back-to-back kills.
The fourth game featured four lead changes until Ripon charged ahead for good at 22-21. Danny Arteaga recorded an ace to set up match point, and Chelsea Ioppini hammered a kill to end it.
Coach Uecker said the difference tonight was the team’s composure, especially when unforced errors began to mount.
“Our team makes errors like anybody else,” she said. “The thing that’s different this year that we’re continuing to work on is how we recover after making errors. You’re going to hit the ball out, you’re going to miss the serve, but it’s how it affects you and how you recover from it.”
Fourth-year libero Paige Burrell and Nizzoli were exceptional from start to finish. Burrell picked up 28 digs but also had five kills and four aces. Nizzoli slapped down 13 kills to go with 35 assists, 14 digs and four aces.
“They do a really good job of keeping the team calm, and the rest of the team is very confident in them,” said Uecker, adding that fellow seniors Ioppini and Leslie were also instrumental in the win. “Lizzy is an amazing setter who has amazing court sense. She knows what the other side is doing, we are in constant communication and she listens very well. She puts the ball wherever I tell her to put it.
“Paige Burrell is a little beast back there. There’s very rarely a ball that’s going to hit the ground around her.”
Emily Brutout contributed seven kills, and Jaqui Uecker chipped in five. Setter Jourdan Richter dished out 22 assists, and Paige Goodger had seven digs.