REDDING — A team wins its last game of the year one of two ways — it finishes out of the money or wins it all. The Ripon Christian volleyball team finished in the money this year, but the Knights did not win it all.
No. 7 Ripon Christian took the 220-plus mile trek north on Thursday night to face host University Prep and found itself flat-footed until the third game, but by that time it was too late as the second-seeded Panthers swept the Knights 25-13, 25-13, 25-19 in second-round action of the CIF NorCal Division IV volleyball playoffs.
“They were a really good team,” Ripon Christian coach Kayla Kootstra said. “They have a lot of firepower and they have great defense. Their passing was on and I think we just walked in a little timid and uncertain and it took us until the third game to get into our groove. So props to them for taking us out of our game.
“I told the girls that tonight was not a reflection of our season. We have had a phenomenal season and we accomplished a lot. We wish University Prep the best going forward.”
The Knights (36-6) did not manage a lead until the third set, but they could not pull away by any more than two points at 10-8. Ripon Christian went on a 5-2 run capped by a kill by Avery McMurray (five kills) that put the Knights ahead for the last time at 17-16. University Prep (39-5) then went on a 7-1 run on the way to the win.
Emily Van Groningen paced the Ripon Christian attack with nine digs, seven kills and two blocks.
“We weren’t used to seeing a team like that,” Van Groningen said. “Every single one of their players had at least one strong suit.
“It’s sad, but we had a good season and I am so proud of our girls.”
Jenna Hofman fought through a severely sprained ankle to hand out 16 assists for the Knights.
“The ankle was swollen and purple, but I got it taped up enough to get it going,” Hofman said. “I’m going to miss these girls so much. We had a lot of ups and downs but I am really proud of how far we made it.”
Ripon’s Ava Van Groningen added nine digs and three blocks and Taylor Postma chipped in a pair of blocks.
That third set showed University Prep coach Tawni Kramer what kind of volleyball the Knights were capable of playing.
“That’s an incredible program over there,” Kramer said. “We knew coming into it that we were going to face the toughest competition we have faced all year.
“We tried to do our homework. We did everything we could to make sure we had one up on them.”
The Panthers host No. 14 Tamalpais of Mill Valley on Saturday at 6 p.m.