A prominent member of Ripon Christian’s 1999 California Interscholastic Federation Division V championship team wants to bring another state title to the school.
New head coach Kayla Kootstra has taken over for Ava Vander Woude, who led the Knights a 25-11 record and their 16th Sac-Joaquin Section crown in her only season. Kootstra will be the third different girls volleyball coach at RC in as many years.
“I was on the only state (championship) team from RC and I would like to get us back there one day,” Kootstra said. “It’s a super lofty goal, but we’re working on taking it one day at a time. I’m excited for what we have coming up for the program and I’m looking forward to getting back into the gym. Hopefully, I can train them on how to be great women and not just great volleyball players.”
Kootstra, formerly Mulder, is in her third year of teaching science at the high school. Her family has history at Ripon Christian — sister Lynae Mulder was also part of that CIF championship team as a freshman, brother Eddie played football and basketball, and their father Ed had two stints as varsity girls basketball coach.
Kootstra helped Ripon Christian win three consecutive SJS banners in volleyball and basketball and went on to play at Cal Poly where she started at outside hitter her final three years there. She previously coached at Escalon for seven years, two as varsity head coach.
“It’s sort of a combination of feelings,” Kootstra said of returning as coach. “I’m really excited to be able to coach at my alma mater. It’s a fun and unique experience and not everyone gets a chance to do that.
“I’m also a little nervous, if I’m being honest, because I have a lot of personal ties to the community, the school and the people. It’s not that I didn’t have close ties at Escalon, but it’s a little bit different when you live, work and go to church with families in the same community.”
Kootstra had a successful two years as Escalon head coach in 2014-15, going 48-26 overall while going as far as the SJS Division IV semifinals. She stepped down from the position to care for her four young children, who are all now students at Ripon Christian Schools.
“I decided to take a little break and was hoping one day to come back to coaching, and thankfully the opportunity has presented itself,” Kootstra said. “The position came up and things kind of fell into place.”
She looks forward to the challenges ahead with few returning players from the 2019 Southern Athletic League co-championship club. The Knights are losing all-league setters Morgan Van Elderen and Ariak Vander Woude to graduation as well as all-league defensive specialist Lauren Braga.
Coming back, however, is 6-foot-2 middle Emily Van Groningen, who was named All-SAL Co-MVP as a sophomore. Kootstra also sees expanded roles for honorable mention outside hitter Natasha Smith and middle Samantha Anema, both juniors.
“I have some strong sophomores coming up and a couple of them are playing club,” Kootstra said. “I’m hopeful we can get come into the gym this summer ready to work so they have a chance to learn my style of coaching and the system. It’s fun to be able to start from scratch and see what you can come up with.”