To the victor goes the spoils — unless you are the Ripon Christian girls volleyball team.
Let’s jump back to 2019. In the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs, the No. 3 Knights traveled to second seeded Le Grand in the semifinals. In one of the more exciting matches I have ever witnessed, Ripon Christian was trailing two games to one going into the fourth set. That turned out to be a marathon game, with the Knights pulling out a 34-32 heart-stopping squeaker. Ripon Christian punched its ticket to the section finals by pulling out a 15-13 win in the fifth set.
The Knights dominated the section finals on neutral turf, sweeping top-seeded Colfax and awaited the brackets for the CIF NorCal tournament.
The wait ended with a 2x4 right across the forehead. Le Grand and Colfax — both beaten by Ripon Christian in the playoffs — earned top eight seeds in Division V, and as such hosted a first-round playoff game. Both teams won and Colfax even won its next game, also at home.
In playoffs, particularly NorCals, home-court advantage is huge. With both Le Grand and Colfax hosting, it should have been a shoo-in for Ripon Christian not only host, but to end up higher than the No.4 seed Colfax was plugged in to. Should have. For their stellar accomplishments, the Knights were awarded a No. 12 seed and a first-round game in Marin County, which they lost.
I wrote a column about that debacle then, and I was told some Ripon Christian parents forwarded it to the CIF state office. Maybe the assigners have a long memory, because history has repeated itself.
This year the Knights won the SJS Division V championship again, although their journey did not have any of the excitement of 2019. In fact, Ripon Christian has not even lost a single set since Oct. 15 in an 0-2 tournament loss to Carondelet of Concord, a NorCal division II team.
Ripon Christian swept Bear River in the semifinals and Bret Harte in the finals, and although both of the Knights’ victims were not rewarded with a home game, one was. Bear River will host as No. 8 in Division V while Bret Harte will take to the road as No. 10 in Division IV. If Bret Harte is No. 10, where do you think Ripon Christian is? Eight? Six? Try No. 9. And the Knights will travel tonight to face No. 8 of Lowell in San Francisco.
There is no way a semifinalist should host a NorCal game while the champion has to travel. It simply should not happen – ever.
Last year the Knights got to host a NorCal game, as No. 7 seed they played host to crosstown rival 10th-seeded Ripon which went five sets with Ripon Christian winning the deciding set 17-15.
Ripon made the playoffs again this year, winning the SJS Division IV championship and is the No. 2 seed in for NorCal Division IV. While Ripon is a good team in its own right, the Indians were swept by Ripon Christian in their annual non-league tilt, and the Knights do not deserve to be slotted seven below the Indians. Ripon Christian also swept Central Catholic in a non-league match, and the Raiders are seeded sixth in the same division for NorCals.
I hope I have egg all over my face tonight when Ripon Christian comes home from San Francisco with a big win. And even if I do, the fact remains the Knights would deserve to celebrate in front of their home crowd, not get home at midnight on a school night.