RIPON — Ripon coach Taylor White has had enough of these five-set matches.
Her Indians pulled out another marathon victory Thursday, coming back to beat neighboring foe Ripon Christian 26-28, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18, 15-11 in front of a boisterous crowd.
“I just told them I’m going to be the first 24-year-old with a head full of gray hair,” White said. “I guess they love doing that to me, but it definitely keeps that factor of excitement going.”
It’s the second five-set win in as many nights for the Indians (4-3), who battled back from a two-game deficit to knock off East Union on Wednesday. They also dropped a five-setter Tuesday at Linden, which clinched it in the fifth, 17-15. And last week, reigning Valley Oak League champion Manteca nipped Ripon in five.
“I guess we just like to make it interesting,” senior outside hitter Mia Van Lewen said. She led all players with 17 kills and was instrumental in igniting the comeback in Game 2 when Ripon Christian (2-3), riding the momentum of its thrilling first-set win, staked an 8-3 lead.
A ball-handling violation helped slow RC’s roll, and Van Lewen served five straight points as Ripon took a 9-8 advantage on a kill from Jordynn Russell (nine kills).
“That’s when it finally clicked for us,” Van Lewen said. “For some reason we do have moments when we don’t start off that strong.”
Van Lewen had eight kills in the second game alone, and Shannon Johnson served six consecutive points including an ace to help Ripon pull away.
Ripon never trailed in the deciding fifth set, and it was sophomore Sydney Thomason who put it away with a kill. The softball standout dueled with Ripon Christian freshman Emily Van Groningen (14 kills) in a matchup of young and promising middles.
“That felt so good,” Thomason said of her finishing blow. "Going five sets again, we just have to win that — we have to. I went all out on in the end. It was so competitive and so much fun.”
Thomason finished with nine kills and was in on six blocks. Rachel Sausedo (27 assists, 12 digs, four kills) and Shannon Johnson (20 assists) shared setting duties, and libero Deven Stokes collected 18 digs.
Ripon Christian’s Renae Heida and Mackenzie Miller slugged 13 and 12 kills, respectively, while Taylor Alger distributed 45 assists.
Knights coach Jocelyn Benizger, whose club has lost three straight against tough opponents, hopes the experience will help as the Knights begin Southern League play next week.
“Ripon is a team that has had some success over the years, and they come walking in saying, ‘we got this,’” Benziger said. “Since this is new territory for us being able to compete with a team like that we had those moments of not knowing how to just stay the course.
“We’re going to have league games that aren’t going to have the same kind of energy and intensity, so hopefully this is enough of a taste of that to help us for the playoffs.”