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Ripon gunning for fourth consecutive Section finals berth
Ripon’s Ashley Robinson looks to take the Indians to their fourth straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV finals match. - photo by HIME ROMERO

One program has more Sac-Joaquin Section titles than anyone, including the last two in Division V.

Another is a runner-up over the past three seasons in Division IV, and a third has qualified for its sixth straight postseason appearance.

Ripon Christian, Ripon and Sierra High’s volleyball teams all share a common goal of wanting to close out the 2009 season as section champions.

The three squads will open their postseason runs Tuesday when the section’s volleyball championships get underway.

The Knights will begin their journey with a trip to Roseville to take on No. 7 seed Valley Christian. Ripon Christian is the Division V No. 10 seed and will undoubtedly have its hands full with a 19-2 Lions squad. Valley Christian has lost only once in its home gym and closed out a Sacramento Metro League season with an impressive 12-2 record.

“I don’t really know anything about them,” Ripon Christian head coach Tiger Shelton said. “We have an idea of how to play them, but I have not seen them or anything like that.

“My goal this year was to not be the first coach in the past 60 years to not make the playoffs.”

If Ripon Christian is able to get past the Lions a trip to Modesto to take on No. 2 seed Big Valley Christian is likely to follow. Big Valley Christian opens the tournament against No. 15 seed Trinity Prep who put together an unimpressive six-win season.

“The seeding in our division is very unique,” Shelton said. “I do think Bradshaw Christian is very good and they deserve the No. 1 seed, but everyone else is pretty much all the same.

“I think the rest of the field is wide open.”

Ripon High will make its way through the Division IV tournament as the section’s No. 3 seed. The Indians are coming off an impressive Trans Valley League season-ending sweep of the Escalon Cougars (the tournament’s No. 4 seed) and will look for a three-match run to the Nov. 19 championship match.

“Our focus is not even close to just making the playoffs like some teams,” Ripon head coach Larry Keethe said. “There are some teams in our league that would be thrilled to make it as far as we’ve made it. I think we should go pretty far, how far just depends on matchups and who comes to play.”

Ripon will host No. 14 seed Marysville who enters the tournament after winning eight of its last 10 matches. Marysville finished play in the Golden Empire League with an 8-4 record, but dropped its second to last match to No. 13 seed Capital Christian in three straight. The Indians will not be looking past their first opponent, but the squad definitely has bigger aspirations than one win.

“Our first goal is to make it to U.C. Davis (championship) in 14 days,” Keethe said. “The next goal is to win that match and get the section championship.

“The next goal is to just keep winning.”

The Sierra High Timberwolves will look to extend its season with a strong performance against No. 6 seed Del Oro in Loomis. The Golden Eagles found themselves backtracking into the playoffs, dropping their final three matches in three games and failing to score 20 points in all but two games.

“The league that team comes from usually says a lot about the team,” Sierra head coach Tevani Liotard said. “Records and stats from the season do not mean too much. Right now this is a new season and we are all 0-0.”

If Sierra, the No. 11 seed, can hold off the Golden Eagles the squad will then look to take on the winner of the El Camino (No. 3 seed) and Woodland (No. 14 seed) match. A Woodland upset would land the Timberwolves a second-round match in front of the home crowd.

Sierra was in the Division II playoffs from 2004-07 and qualified for the D-III bracket last year, but the Timberwolves haven’t advanced past the first round.

“We are playing on a Tuesday so we have already addressed that,” Liotard said in the change from the VOL’s Monday, Wednesday set up. “Our practice sessions are the same as what we normally do. This late in the game you can’t change too much, because some time change can have a negative effect on the girls.

“We don’t want to get away from the routine that we have been running throughout the whole year.”

To contact Jagada Chambers, e-mail, or call (209) 249-3543.