ESCALON — For Ripon to get over the hump against elite teams like the one it faced Thursday at rival Escalon, the Indians will have to overcome its own worst enemy.
They proved once again capable of competing with the Trans-Valley League’s reigning champion, as it has against other talented clubs, but they were ultimately doomed by unforced errors in what culminated into another heartbreaking four-game loss (25-14, 14-25, 16-26, 14-25) to the Cougars.
Ripon has dropped seven straight to Escalon in the last three years while falling to 4-3 in the TVL standings. Escalon (7-1, 14-6 overall) keeps pace with league-leading Hilmar (8-0, 27-6), which staved off Ripon in five games last week.
“It’s obvious we have a lot of talent and it’s obvious we put in a lot of work,” Ripon coach Adrienne Uecker said. “It’s just unfortunate they could not pull this out tonight because we really needed this as a team.”
Ripon looked unbeatable in the opening set with outside hitter Paige Goodger leading the charge. She converted on her first four kill attempts, and her fifth for the game had the Indians well ahead, 19-13. She also had three of her five aces in Game 1 alone. Goodger finished with 13 kills.
“I know she’s taking this extremely hard right now because she puts a lot of the weight of the team on her shoulders and she’s completely unselfish,” Uecker said. “That’s what you want out of your No. 1 outside hitter. I would have really liked to win this tonight for her.”
The Indians never returned to form for the remainder of the match, as Escalon picked up the pace of its attack behind sophomore setter Taylor Laugero, outside hitter Cassidy Caton and middle Krysten Rose. The Cougars led 6-1 early in Game 2. Later, Laugero and Brooke Silva capitalized on back-to-back overpasses for kills make it 12-3.
Escalon didn’t look back from there. The Cougars were in such control by Game 4 that they led 10-1 at one point. Ripon’s spirits were fully sapped by then, as passing and hitting miscues continued to mount.
“I was still confident that we could just get that (Game 2 loss) out of our system, come back in the third set and it just snowballed,” Uecker said. “Momentum is a really an interesting thing in volleyball. When momentum is not going your way it’s really not going your way. The kids got quiet, they stopped talking and they really let it get away from them.”
Setter Jourdan Richter contributed 29 assists, Danny Arteaga picked up 15 digs and Kristen Carhart added two blocks for Ripon.
VALLEY OAK LEAGUE
Oakdale 3, Sierra 0
Sierra struggled to keep up with the VOL’s second-place squad in an 11-25, 11-25, 18-25 setback.
Fabiola Lopez turned in four kills and nine assists to pace the Timberwolves. Kristen Maestretti contributed two kills and two blocks. Madison English had nine digs to go with a pair of kills.
Brianna Padua collected six digs in Sierra’s 13-25, 15-25 loss.
The Timberwolves were nipped at the end of their three-game thriller (7-25, 25-19, 14-16) Thursday night.
Vanessa Benham anchored the front line with five kills and three blocks. Karla De La Cuera served six points, and Jaleyna Tremor provided good defense and passing.