RIPON — Ashley Robinson glanced to her left and passed to Cheyann DePrue, who swung her right hand and — boom! — vaulted the Ripon High Indians into the Northern California Division IV volleyball final.
The Indians, exhorted by a crowd of about 250 on their home court, survived a tense fourth game Saturday night to outlast Notre Dame of Salinas 25-21, 21-25, 25-14 and 25-21.
But about 10 minutes after match's end, Ripon received the news: Christian Brothers, the team that has lorded its superiority over the Indians 10 times over the last four years, rallied from an 0-2 deficit and survived a five-set soap opera against Sacred Heart Prep.
It's Ripon at Christian Brothers on Tuesday night — one more shot against their nemesis for the Indians (38-10), barely a week after the latest five-game CBS heartbreak. At stake is a berth in the state final but, arguably more important, a win that would exorcise more than a few demons.
"We want it so bad. The scores are so close," said Ripon junior setter Kelsey Johnston after her 42-assist masterpiece. "I thought we played great (last week). We've had 'em. We're there, and then everything shuts down. We know we can do it."
Could the volleyball gods finally be smiling on the team in red? The Indians caught a golden break when Notre Dame (28-7), a girls prep school, shocked No. 2 seed Salesian, which kept Ripon at home Saturday night.
Another positive was the return of junior middle hitter Coryn Hernandez for the playoffs, after she was sidelined with a broken wrist. Hernandez strengthens Ripon's already formidable front wall of the 6-foot-1 Robinson — bound for Sonoma State — 5-11 senior Lauren Feddersen and DePrue.
Robinson delivered 21 kills and DePrue, launching from the outside, accounted for 15. Almost all of them came at critical times as Ripon shook off a second-game loss and protected a lead in Game 4 that melted from a cozy 16-5 to a nail-biting 21-20. Big-swinging points by Hernandez and DePrue eventually escorted Ripon from danger.
"Cheyann and Coryn stepped up big tonight," said Robinson, one of only three Ripon seniors. "It got a little nervous but we pulled through."
Ripon teetered early in Game 3 and trailed 6-4. Notre Dame, encouraged by its match-tying victory moments before, was gaining momentum the Indians countered strong on Robinson's power, Feddersen's serve and help from Hernandez at the net.
That 6-4 deficit flipped into a 21-13 lead, and soon Ripon stormed toward victory.
Robinson, wrapping up her fourth varsity season, has felt the Christian Brothers sting as many times as fifth-year coach Larry Keethe. He's beaten CBS, but never at Ripon.
Keethe says the losses haven't kept him up at night. "No, it's making me mad," he said with a smile. "We all want them bad. We pretty much know what we're going to do against them. We want them. We know them."
That part has been established. Beating them is all that's left.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.