DAVIS — The Golden Sierra High volleyball team was the No. 2 seed, Ripon was No. 1. But while Golden Sierra may have lost its bid for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship Thursday at UC Davis, it wasn’t an easy 3-0 victory for Ripon.
“Golden Sierra is a very good team” Ripon coach Larry Keethe said. “They really improved throughout the season.”
The 25-21, 27-25, 25-21 scores suggest he’s right. A point here or there and the match may have gone the Grizzlies’ way. But it wasn’t for lack of trying or chances.
Golden Sierra opened the match with a couple of errors before Caitlin Hess finessed a tip around the block to put a Grizzly point on the board but the next Golden Sierra serve landed softly in the net, indicating the Griz were tentative.
“There were two ways we could have come out tonight. This was not the way we wanted to start,” Katie Christner said. “We just didn’t seem to have any energy all night.”
Sierra Cokinos provided a spark as she landed a solid kill on the slide for the sideout with Ripon up 5-2. With Christner facing a triple block on her attacks, Jessica Condit started to spread sets around, and the girls responded. Tiffany Grey and Alexis Hall both tooled the block for kills and Hess blocked Paige Horwood’s attack and then landed a quick attack off the block to get Golden Sierra within three at 12-9.
The Indians then went on a 6-3 run for an 18-12 lead courtesy of five Grizzly errors prompting Grizzly coach Justin Cox to take a timeout. The break worked as Christner and Hall both landed kills to close within 19-14. After a series of Ripon errors and a Cokinos ace on her jump serve, the Indians went to the sideline to talk things over.
The two squads traded sideouts before Ripon went up 22-20 on a cross-court kill and a Griz hitting error. Christner landed a roll shot to close within one but the Indians took the set on Coryn Hernandez’s quick attack and two more Grizzly errors.
“I thought we were nervous in the first set,” Cox said.
The Grizzlies settled down in the second set. After spotting the Indians a 2-0 lead Golden Sierra went on an 8-2 run behind kills from Hall, Christner and Cokinos. Christner’s ace coupled with four Ripon errors had Golden Sierra up 12-5 and the Indians called for time. The break had little effect as Hess stuffed an overpass to the open court and Hall’s slam from the outside caught the back line for a 14-5 Grizzly lead.
But the Indians rallied and put together a 10-3 run, the last a block on Hess’ quick attempt to get within two at 17-15. Ripon’s run continued, and when Hernandez landed a kill for a 21-19 Ripon lead, Cox took his second timeout. Ripon scored one more before an Indian service error, Condit’s ace, and a lift on Ripon knotted the score at 22.
Cox protested an apparent Indian sideout and the Grizzlies were awarded the point on a back-row attack violation but Ripon answered with another kill for the sideout at 23-23. Christner’s kill had Golden Sierra at set point and the Indians called time. After the huddle Ripon tied it at 24 but Cokinos caught Ripon napping with a second touch dump to give the Grizzlies their second set point. Ripon responded with a roll shot and a dump for a one point lead and took the game on a Grizzly back-row kill that went long.
“We gave up to many points in large spurts, and that seemed to take the wind out of our sails” Cox said, while Keethe observed, ”I thought our timing was the difference tonight. We were able to win the critical points at the right time.”
The Grizzlies came out strong in set three on Cokinos’ tip, Condit’s kill of an overpass, and a Condit/Hess block for 3-0 lead. But Ripon came back to tie and then take a 4-3 lead. It was a tight game with five ties and three lead changes, the last coming when Ripon went cross-court for a 21-20 lead. The Indians sealed their first title since 1983 when Cheyann Deprue’s final attack went off the block for the 25-21 win and the match.
“I was pretty confident coming in because I thought we matched up well,” Cox said. “We were the underdogs, we had nothing to lose. But we were inconsistent and could not capitalize when we had the opportunity. We forced a few too many sets. Their outside was effective on the quick attacks and we tried to adjust, but it was a bit too late.”
Christner was held to a season low nine kills. She had three blocks and two aces. Cokinos finished with five kills and two aces, Caitlin Hess had five kills and four blocks, and Alexis Hall had five kills.
The Grizzlies will resume playing Tuesday in the first round of the CIF Northern California Championship tournament. Brackets will be released Sunday afternoon. Log onto mtdemocrat.com for information.