Even defending champions have aspects of their game to work on.
For the Ripon Christian High volleyball team, finishing as strong as it starts is something the Knights will work on in practice today in preparation for Thursday's Division V championship.
Ripon Christian defeated host Big Valley Christian 25-10, 25-14, 25-16 on Tuesday, a sweep that was dominant at times and a bit unfocused at others.
"We're always fired up at the beginning, then we get a little overconfident," senior Darian Quaresma said. "We play up and down all the time. That's just what we need to work on. We still have things to do."
The Knights play Woodland Christian, which defeated Bradshaw Christian 4-1 in their semifinal, on Thursday at 4 p.m. at UC Davis.
Andrea Terpstra led the Knights (19-14) with 15 kills. After Ripon Christian set a ball into the net to lead just 15-12 in the third game, Terpstra answered with a powerful spike no Lion could get a hand on.
"When she spikes the ball straight down, we think, 'We got this,' " Quaresma said.
The Knights won six of the last seven points to finish the game, with an ace from Kailee Adams to end the night. She led Ripon Christian with 21 digs.
Approximately 500 people were part of the festive atmosphere, with yellow and blue balloons and posters on the walls for the Big Valley Christian gym.
Big Valley (20-11) scored five consecutive points in the third game to close the gap to 13-11. But the Lions weren't consistent after that string. Annika Rigney led Big Valley Christian in assists (11) and blocks (2).
Second-year coach Larry Hagstrom loses seven players next season, but said the players coming up are capable of continuing the program's upswing. Reaching the third round was a first for the program.
"From what I understand, this is the first year the program has made it to the third round," Hagstrom said. "The senior class brought us to this point. The program isn't going down at all. We're going to keep the success going."