State

No place like home in NorCal volleyball

To the victors go the spoils, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the first round of the Northern California Volleyball Championships.

Teams that won section titles are playing at home tonight and, in theory, facing easier foes. Teams that lost in section finals must travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, and are often facing highly ranked foes.

Ripon Christian (21-15) is the lone Stanislaus District team at home, hosting Valley Christian of Dublin (22-7) in a Division V regional match.

Oakdale (30-4) is heading to San Francisco to face Sacred Heart Cathedral (31-9) in a D-III match, and Ripon (43-5) heads north to face Sutter (41-1) in D-IV action tonight.

All matches are at 7 p.m.

Oakdale and Ripon are hoping to buck the odds and earn a berth in Saturday's semifinals: visitors went 9-26 in the NorCal tournament last year.

Oakdale has more than tradition to overcome: Sacred Heart won NorCal titles in 2004 and '07, and finished second in the ultra-competitive West Coast Athletic League this season.

"League gets us ready for the playoffs, because the competition is so intense," Sacred Heart coach Margi Beima said. "Second is the highest we've finished in years, and we've won two NorCal titles, so that says something."

WCAL champ Mitty of San Jose is a state D-II finalist four years running and this year's top NorCal seed.

Ripon has a 240-mile round trip and will face one of only two teams in Northern California that has just one loss -- Mitty (38-1) is the other.

Of course, it could be worse: Central Valley of Shasta, the No. 8 seed in D-IV, is facing a 500-mile round tip to face top-seeded Menlo of Atherton.

Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at restrada@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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