Three Stanislaus District teams -- Oakdale, Ripon and Ripon Christian -- open the Northern California playoffs tonight with 7 p.m. matches:
No. 7 Oakdale (29-4) at No. 3 Sacred Heart Cathedral-San Francisco (31-9) -- Oakdale is making its second regional trip in three years and faces one of the state's top programs. The Irish won regional titles in 2004 and 2007, and won four of the last five Central Coast Section titles. ... The Irish are led by 6-foot middle hitter Gabby Jolly (3.9 kills), who signed with St. Mary's, and 5-10 outside hitter Nicole Yap (3.4 kills). ... Oakdale outside hitters Jaci Powell (5-9) and Alexis Evans (5-8) combine to average six kills. Setter Jackee Lee (8.1 assists) and libero Juli Powell (4.2 digs) will have to be at their best to deceive one of the region's top defenses.
Other Division III matches: West Valley-Cottonwood at St. Mary's-Stockton, 7 p.m.; Miramonte-Orinda at Enterprise-Redding, 7; Valley Christian-San Jose at Bishop O'Dowd-Oakland, 7.
No. 5 Ripon (43-5) at No. 4 Sutter (41-1) -- Ripon had won 23 of the last 24 before a 3-0 loss to Christian Brothers in the section final and played the superior schedule -- including an early win over Nevada Union, the No. 1 seed in the D-I bracket. Outside hitters Kirsten Duren (5 feet, 5 inches) and Jenna Dunkel (5-11) combine for six kills per game, while setter Kelsey Johnston (5-7) is one of the region's top setters. ... Sutter has plenty of height -- four players are 5-10 or taller, including 6-1 Whitney Lee (team-high 3.2 kills per game) -- and Kayli Paulucci (5.6 assists) runs the offense. Its lone loss was to Red Bluff (23-15), the No. 4 seed in D-II. Sutter is one of two NorCal teams with one loss.
Other Division IV matches: Central Valley-Shasta Lake City at Menlo-Atherton, 7 p.m.; Harbor-Santa Cruz at Marin Catholic-Kentfield, 7; Piedmont at Christian Brothers-Sacramento, 7.
No. 5 Valley Christian-Dublin (22-7) No. 4 Ripon Christian (21-15) -- RC's second consecutive section title earned it a home opener, and a win here likely gets them a trip to top-seeded St. Francis of Watsonville in the semifinal. Pacific-bound middle hitter Andrea Terpstra (5.9 kills, 1.9 blocks) and setter Candice Adema (9.5 assists, 2.3 blocks) were the class of the D-V field in the Sac-Joaquin Section, as the Knights swept their four foes by 3-0 scores. The Knights get their depth from libero Kailee Adams (5.5 digs) and 5-10 outside hitter Kristen Green (2 kills). ... The Vikings rely on 6-1 middle blocker Edirin Sodo at the net, no other player tops 5-6, and she'll battle the 6-1 Terpstra at the net. In the section final, Woodland Christian tried to dig Terpstra's kill attempts, rather than defend the net, and she had 17 kills in three games.
-- RICHARD T. ESTRADA