RIPON — Ripon Christian High prides itself at the service line.
In Thursday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division V opener, the No. 3-seeded Knights swept visiting Golden Sierra, winning 25-9, 25-13, 25-9.
"We're a good serving team," said RC coach Ava Vander Woude. "We work hard on it in practice."
Indicative of that occurred in the third and decisive game. The Knights (23-9) jumped out to big leads in winning the first two of the best-of-five game match.
The No. 6 Grizzlies (18-16) led in the early stages and, according Vander Woude, appeared to finally be warming up.
"They had a long bus ride to get here," she said. "We knew it was just a matter of time."
That's when senior setter Morgan Van Elderen stepped it up. She helped fuel her team on an 11-0 run, serving up seven aces in the process. Emily Van Groningen and Alexis Hilvers both delivered kills in that rally.
As a team, RC served up 15 aces during the match. Lauren Braga and Ariel Vander Woude finished with three aces each.
The Knights turned a 5-4 deficit — this was only time in the match in which they trailed — to a 17-5 advantage, en route to a first-round victory.
They'll travel to Le Grand on Tuesday. The No. 2-seeded Bulldogs also disposed of No. 7 Leroy Greene Academy of Sacramento in three games. Le Grand and Ripon Christian split the Southern League title this season.
Ariel Vander Woude provided the early boost in the opener, serving her team to a 7-0 lead.
Golden Sierra made several unforced errors along the way, including a couple of mishandling passes and out-of-bound returns.
Braga and Faith Ozenbaugh kept the rally going, serving RC to a 16-3 lead.
Sophomore outside hitter Van Groningen had five of her game-high 17 kills in that first game, with Van Elderen and Ariel Vander Woude often being there to set up the play.
Junior outside hitter Natasha Smith contributed with one of her three kills to help close out the opener.
Ariel Vander Woude, Braga, and Ozenbaugh were instrumental from the service line in the second game. They combined to give RC a 16-3 lead, with Van Groningen scoring on four kills and Van Elderen adding a spike during that stretch.
The lead was too much for the Grizzlies to overcome — they put together a modest rally to cut the deficit, 21-12.
Van Elderen, in addition to her play from the service line, racked up 17 assists, six digs, and four kills.
Vander Woude had 12 assists to go with her six digs and five kills.
In addition, Van Groningen, who also had a block, and libero Charlotte te Velde both had 10 digs.