Ripon Christian boys volleyball coach Kevin Tameling finally got to see a more complete version of his team on Friday.
He is hoping there is more to come as schools in the area shut down in response to novel coronavirus cases in San Joaquin County.
With four starters joining the club after winning a NorCal basketball championship just three nights prior, the Knights showed some expected rust along with some impressive play that got them to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title match last season. They knocked off defending Tri-City Athletic League champion West of Tracy, 25-22, 25-19, 25-22.
“We got two practices in and tried to put stuff together,” junior Braden Van Groningen said. “We were a little rusty today, but when it came down to it I thought that we played well and we played well as a team. If we get to play a couple more games we can be a lot better.”
Late Friday afternoon, the San Joaquin County Office of Education released a statement from Superintendent James Mousalimas, who recommended that all schools in the county close for the next three weeks starting Monday. Manteca Unified is closed through April 3 with schools reopening on April 6, and there will be no athletic activities in the meantime. Ripon High athletics resume April 6, but with spring break starting that week the school won’t open until Tuesday, April 14.
“We were just happy to get on the court,” Tameling said. “With everything going on right now, it was just nice having everyone together and a little sense of normal. We’ll obviously take the necessary precautions for the school and the community, but I have not heard anything yet (regarding the school suspending all activities).”
Ripon Christian overcame 19 service errors in its first — and not the last, the Knights hope — match of the season. They also had their share of errant hits and passes, miscommunication and even a rotation fault.
They were still able to ward off the much-improved Wolf Pack (10-6), which had claimed three straight wins earlier in the week. West threatened to steal the opening set, scoring three unanswered points — a run capped by kill from Nicholas Jung — to close in, 23-22.
Tameling called a timeout, and West followed with serving and passing errors that clinched it for RC.
The Knights closed out Game 2 in style, getting a kill from Jacob Van Groningen, an ace from freshman Joel Van Groningen and a kill from middle blocker Kyler O’Conner.
Ripon Christian was in control for much of the third set until West mounted an 8-2 run to take a 19-18 after the Knights committed four-touch violation. The Wolf Pack took one last lead at 21-20 before RC responded with a finishing 5-1 flurry.
With only seven available players — the remaining six were formed a junior varsity team to give them some match experience Friday — the Knights were also able to get plenty of contributions from returning setter Lukas Van Groningen, third-year defensive specialist Derek Scholten and newcomer Jaden Booth.
“These guys have played a lot of volleyball for us the past couple of years, played some big roles,” Tameling said. “They were ready to hop back in there. I know they were itching to get back onto the court.”
Braden Van Groningen would like to return to action as soon as possible.
“We’ll definitely try and find ways to get better, stay in shape, so that we can be ready for any games in the future,” he said said. “We’ll just wait things out and see how it all plays out. This is a weird thing and we’re not sure what’s going to happen.”