RIPON — Good teams win when they are able to execute their game plan. Good teams become great when their game plan is blown up and the still find a way to win.
The Ripon Christian volleyball team is approaching greatness.
For the second time this season, the Knights have had a setter thrust into the position with little to no notice. Tuesday night, Ripon Christian’s Jenna Hoffman went down with an ankle injury and sophomore Leah Van Wyngarden found herself in the hot seat, finding a way to get the ball to her hitters as seventh-seeded Ripon Christian pulled out a heart-stopping 26-28, 25-22, 25-23, 13-25, 17-15 five-set thriller over visiting 10th-seeded Ripon in opening-round action of the CIF NorCal Division IV Championships.
The Knights’ reward for the win is a 220-mile road trip on Thursday when Ripon Christian will face second-seeded University Prep in Redding.
“We can plan and plan and plan and then I think sometimes God laughs at me,” Knights coach Kayla Kootstra said. “Wrenches keep getting thrown into our plans, so I am really proud of the girls for pulling out that win.
“Leah Van Wyngarden stepped up in a big way tonight. We used her a little in practice on Monday — she is very athletic and has been playing the game a long time and has a good understanding of the game and was able to go in and do something not a lot of people could do.”
Van Wyngarden finished with 21 assists and 18 digs after Hoffman left with 14 assists.
“Coming in to set like that was one of the most stressful things I have ever had to do,” Van Wyngarden said. “I trusted the hitters to adjust to my sets and it all worked out.
“I hadn’t set for a whole season until now.”
With the fifth set tied at 15-15, Emily Van Groningen (13 kills, two blocks) blasted two kills for Ripon Christian (36-5) to secure the win, with the last being hammered after an overpass by the Indians (22-11) barely cleared the net for Van Groningen to pound home.
“Overpass kills are my thing,” Van Groningen said. “All the stars really aligned on that last point. As soon as I saw it go up high I told myself that it was my time to shine.”
Ava Van Groningen finished with 10 kills and 13 digs for the Knights.
“I was nervous at the beginning,” Ava Van Groningen said. “Leah came in as a really great setter when Jenna got hurt.”
Ripon Christian’s Taylor Postma placed five aces.
Ripon had the serve with a 15-14 lead in the last set, but as the Indians had done twice earlier in the set they served the ball into the net. Ripon had five service errors in the two previous sets it lost, and only one in the 25-13 fourth-set win.
“The key thing is at the end we didn’t have our serves in,” Indians coach Chuck Sterni said. “That’s what we needed to put it away and we couldn’t do that. That was the key.
“If our serves are on, we are going to win. That is the bread and butter of this team.”
Danika Matuska posted eight kills and an ace for Ripon while Reagan Wilkerson added seven kills and two aces. Avery McKiernan chipped in six kills and Bella Chapin four aces.