Player of the year: Kirsten Duren, Ripon
It's become standard operating procedure for the Ripon High volleyball team to play for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.
For the third consecutive year, the Indians played for the blue banner at UC Davis, dominating the local landscape. And Kirsten Duren was in the middle of it all.
The 5-foot-5 sparkplug had a hand in nearly every play this season. She split time with Kelsey Johnston at setter, dealing out 453 assists. She pounded away as an outside hitter for 404 kills. She was one of the Indians' top passers, making 313 successful passes. She also had 88 aces and 79 blocks.
For the second consecutive season, Duren was the best in the area. Duren has been named The Bee's 2008 high school volleyball player of the year.
For Duren, the Indians' record-setting season -- they went 45-6 and advanced to the CIF Northern California Regional Championship, one game away from playing for the state title -- was the real payoff.
"We felt we were going to be pretty good," Duren said. "But I didn't think we'd get so far. And we were right there; we could've made state."
Ripon was more than right there. In the NorCal game, it beat Christian Brothers in the first two games before the Falcons rallied, winning the final three games. It was a rematch Duren hoped to get.
In their section championship match, Christian Brothers made it look easy in a three-game sweep of Ripon. But it was a blessing in disguise.
"We played some of our most memorable volleyball after that," Duren said.
First came a long trip to Sutter of the Northern Section, and a short match. The Indians swept the Huskies in three easy victories. Next was a trip to Menlo -- the top seed.
"I'll remember that match the most," Duren said. "I think that was the best we played this season. Everybody was making plays. We trusted each other so much. It was an awesome feeling."
Moments after Ripon beat Menlo in five games, the Menlo crowd stood and gave the Indians an ovation.
A personal highlight came for Duren after the Sutter game. Boise State -- a school she'd already committed to -- called her and told her the good news: Her partial scholarship had become a full-ride.
She'll also get a chance to play right away in Idaho.
"They had two setters on the roster, a senior and a freshman," Duren said. "The senior's going to graduate, and the freshman quit the team. There's myself and one more setter coming in, so the coaches have told us we're going to get a chance to play right away."
Boise State sent an assistant to watch Duren in Ripon's final match against Christian Brothers. But they already know what they're going to get: A gritty competitor who gives her team a chance to win every time they're on the court.
The Ripon High volleyball program has seen that the last four years.
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.
Coach of the year: Rene Lindberg, ModestoIn her first season as the Panthers' head coach, Lindberg saw Modesto go 18-5, complete an undefeated Modesto Metro Conference season and roll into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. The Panthers swept Vintage of Napa in the first round -- the first volleyball playoff victory in school history -- and beat perennial power Davis of Yolo before losing to eventual section champion Nevada Union in the semifinals.
Ripon Christian senior
Buhach Colony junior
Golden Valley senior
Ripon Christian senior
*Previous All-District selection