RIPON — The Ripon Christian Knights are returning to UC Davis.
They’re back to defend their Sac-Joaquin Section Division V volleyball crown Thursday and will again face Bradshaw Christian for the third straight year.
“That’s our goal (to make it to the section title match) since the start of the season,” said RC senior Mikaela Alger, who helped spark her team to a sweep over the visiting Capital Christian Cougars of Golden Empire League on Tuesday, 25-18, 25-14, 25-20.
She and her sister, Morgan Alger, combined for 23 kills against the No. 5 seeded Capital Christian (23-11). Mikaela had 13 while Morgan accounted for 10.
As the No. 7 seed, Bradshaw Christian finished off No. 11 Le Grand of the Southern League, 3-1.
The top-seeded Knights (24-10) are making their fifth straight appearance to the sections.
The Knights came out a bit sluggish in the opening set in Tuesday’s semifinal as the Cougars jumped out to an 11-5 early lead. Leading the way was 6-foot-3 senior outside hitter Missy Fuerst, who had two of her team-high six kills during that stretch.
“We started off slow against a team that we were facing for the very first time,” said RC coach Tiger Shelton. “I think we were trying to size up Capital Christian.”
The Knights closed the gap and surged ahead behind the serving of Andie Shelton, who delivered two of her team-high three aces, and Brittany Petlansky.
RC’s front line of Teagan Manus, Mikaela Alger and Shelton put the Cougars away after taking the lead for good, 17-16. Shelton and Alger both had two kills while Manus delivered the winning spike.
“We’ve been down before so we pretty much knew what we had to do,” said Alger. “We’re a team made up with great chemistry.”
RC also overcame an early deficit in the second set but then seized control when Stephanie Vande Pol served up five straight points highlighted by Morgan Alger’s three consecutive kills.
Petlansky’s spike gave RC an 11-7 lead.
The Knights were in the kill zone, getting spikes from the Alger sisters and Petlansky. All told, they had 13 kills in that second set, including five from Morgan Alger, four from Mikaela Alger, and three from Petlansky.
Setting things up was Shelton, who finished with 29 assists. Vande Pol chipped in with seven assists and 14 digs and Petlansky had 10 digs to go with her seven kills.
Manus, in addition, came through with four blocks.
For the Cougars, Holly Ailman doled out 10 assists and Jennifer Orr added 16 digs.
RC jumped out an early 8-1 lead in the third set, and appeared in control with a 17-7 advantage.
But Capital Christian rallied back by taking advantage of some Knights’ miscues.
The Cougars closed the deficit to a point, 21-20, scoring on a block by Kayleigh Bates.
Shelton restored some order by delivering a kill.
Shortly after that, Manus scored on a block while Petlansky sent Capital Christian home with a spike.
With that, RC turned its attention to the section title match.
“This is where we want to be at the end of the season,” said Tiger Shelton, who could see his team move up to Division 4 with another victory.
“We’re here to win (the section),” Mikaela Alger added. “That’s what the season is all about.”