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Ripon upends Wolves in five
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WOODLAND — Ripon can now shift its focus to Sonora.

“I’m ready,” said Indians coach Adrienne Beltrami. “The girls are ready.”

The fifth-seeded club in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs earned the right to face the defending state champion after gutting out a suspenseful five-game victory — 25-13, 25-17, 24-26, 21-25, 15-12 — over No. 4 Woodland on Thursday.

Ripon (20-9) countered the Wolves’ big comeback with one of their own in the deciding set. Trailing 7-4 with momentum and a raucous partisan crowd behind Woodland (14-5), the Indians came through with the clutch points to steal the game.

“It shows a lot about our kids,” Beltrami said. “They believe in each other and in what we’re doing. Even though we did get down in the third and fourth sets, they never looked defeated. They believed they were going to push through it and win.”

Samantha McCreath blasted 26 kills while picking up 20 digs to lead Ripon. Middle blocker Breana Barrios added 14 kills, seven blocks and two aces. Madison McCreath contributed 13 kills of her own to help keep Woodland blockers off balance. After missing the team’s first-round match with an injury, libero Ashlyn Eisenga returned to pick up 44 digs in the back row. Setter Lauren Wiebe distributed 55 assists, and sophomore Emily Qualle chimed in with four blocks.

The tide turned in Woodland’s favor in the third set when it came back from a 19-11 deficit.

“We just kind of went away from what was working for us,” Beltrami said. “We started to get a little shaky on serve receive, and by the time we got past that (Woodland) was playing with a lot of energy and heart. They gave us a run for our money.”

Ripon proved to have enough energy and heart to pull out the impressive road win. The Indians are travelling again next Tuesday when they head to No. 1 Sonora (29-4). They’ve already visited Bud Castle Gym this season, dropping a competitive four-game match on Sept. 8. Sonora swept No. 9 Colfax on Thursday.

“Did I see us potentially playing Sonora in the semifinals? Absolutely, but I don’t like for us to get ahead of ourselves,” said Beltrami, who is leading Ripon to its second straight semifinal. “We were focused on taking care of business on Tuesday and then tonight (Thursday). We’re going to celebrate this win tonight, but tomorrow it’s back to work.”