RIPON — Ripon Christian did not trail in the first or third sets Thursday night and by no more than three points in the second as the Knights swept visiting Central Catholic 25-13, 25-22, 25-17 in non-league volleyball action.
The Raiders are the reigning champions of the Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs but have been without their top player, Abby Castillon. Ripon Christian won the Division V title in 2019.
“Central is always a good program,” Ripon Christian coach Kayla Kootstra said. “It’s unfortunate that they have one of their best players on the sidelines injured. She is a great player and it would have been fun to see them at full strength with her but I was really happy with how our girls came out.
“We executed what I thought we needed to execute and it allowed us to be in system and to get all of our hitters firing.”
After trailing 19-16 in the second set, the Knights (11-2) battled back to tie the game at 19-19 and 22-22 before scoring the final three points for the thrilling 25-22 win.
Mercy Lara (28 assists, 10 digs, five kills, four aces) put that pivotal third set away. At match point during a long volley, Lara noticed that the back court was creeping up for the Raiders (3-6) and instead of setting one of her powerful hitters, Lara deftly set the ball behind the Central Catholic back line and in front of the end line for the win.
“It’s all about reading the court,” Lara said. “If I see an opening, I am going to take to it.
“I saw them creeping up. It’s all part of being a setter. You have to know where everyone is on the court, I saw that opening and I took it.”
One of those powerful Ripon Christian hitters was Emily Van Groningen who blasted nine kills along with 14 digs, three aces and two blocks.
“I have a great setter (Lara),” Van Groningen said. “When the free ball comes over she gets it to me a lot.
“I love the quick sets. It is easiest for me to slam it down.”
Jordan Vander Veen posted eight kills and three aces for the Knights and Avery Murray made 10 digs.
The absence of Castillon is having a strong effect on the Raiders with no scheduled date for her return.
“We are having to step up,” Central Catholic coach Michelle Springmeyer said. “We are having to grow as a team and individually and take on pressures that I think maybe they weren’t expecting.
“They are really focused and they are fortunate to have her (Castillon) here to mentor us.”
McKinley King made seven kills for the Raiders and Sophia Castillon added nine digs.
Ripon Christian 2, Central Catholic 0
Leah Van Wyngarden tallied seven kills and seven digs for the Knights in their 25-12, 25-21 victory.
Megan Weststeyn posted three aces and 17 assists for Ripon Christian.