DAVIS -- No need for introductions tonight, Ripon High knows everything it needs to know about Christian Brothers.
"I've been at Ripon for five years and our team has faced Christian Brothers every year, most years two or three times," coach Larry Keethe said. "They are among the very best and playing against CB makes us a better team."
Ripon keeps improving, but so does Christian Brothers -- which has always been a step ahead.
The rivals meet tonight for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 championship at 6 p.m. at UC Davis, though both are assured bids to next week's Northern California playoffs.
The Indians won't be alone: neighboring Ripon Christian plays for the D5 title at 4 vs. Bradshaw Christian. RC won the last two D5 titles, and has won 12 of the 18 championships since the section adopted its five-division format.
There is more at stake than a title tonight for Ripon High: It's also playing for pride.
This is the Indians' fourth consecutive trip to the final, and they're still waiting for a win. Christian Brothers beat them each year, sweeping the last two meetings in three games.
"A section title will come," Keethe says. "When is the only question. CB is good due to a combination of factors: athletic, tall players, an excellent coach, and the ability to draw from a very large area."
Christian Brothers, being a private school, can reach out as far as it wants to find players. The Falcons picked up some new talent when Loretto, another private school in Sacramento, shut down last spring.
When Keethe needs new talent for the varsity, he can't go into Modesto or Manteca, it's got to be homegrown. Which makes it all the more impressive that Ripon comes back each year to challenge.
"Versatility is our trademark," said Keethe, who tries to maximize the efforts of his top players. "We have a flexible offense with most players capable of playing multiple positions. Ashley Robinson, Kelsey Johnston, Sarah Stanger, Lauren Feddersen and Kallie Jacobs are five who make this system work."
Keethe also demands more from his kids than do most others.
"We practice hitting out of the back row constantly," he said, a scheme that allows his players to be a threat regardless of their position. "Ashley, Sarah, Lauren, Kelsey, Coryn Hernandez, and Cheyann Deprue are all proficient hitting out of the back row."