Ripon denied in NorCal upset bid

SACRAMENTO -- The Ripon High volleyball team was one game from a trip to the state championships.

And the way the Indians played in the first two games against Christian Brothers of Sacramento, it was only going to be a matter of time before Ripon would get that third win.

But at the worst time, the Indians discovered just how much a game of momentum volleyball can be.

Ripon could only watch as the suddenly hot Falcons won the final three games of the match, taking a 18-25, 23-25, 25-13, 25-22, 15-8 victory in the CIF Northern California Regional Division IV championship in a packed gymnasium at Christian Brothers High School on Tuesday night.

Christian Brothers (34-7) will play Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach in the CIF Division IV State Championship Saturday at UC Irvine. The season is over for Ripon (45-6), which played in its first NorCal Championship in school history.

"We played so well in the first two games," Ripon senior Kirsten Duren said. "And then it was like we got a little overwhelmed by what we just did."

There was little the Indians could do wrong in the first two games.

They jumped out to a 13-4 lead in the first game and never allowed a big Christian Brothers serving run. Perkins (42 digs) picked up several kill attempts by Falcons middle hitter Kayla Neto and Duren slammed them home. Duren had five of her team-high 17 kills in the first game.

The second game was a harder-fought battle, with Jenna Dunkel slamming home the winner for a commanding 2-0 lead.

"We were hot and they were cold," Ripon coach Larry Keethe said. "But after that, their defense really came through. We had some big hits that they kept bringing back over."

The Falcons dominated the third game, closing it out with a 14-2 run. They never lost the momentum after that.

"We were just barely off in every aspect, and in a match like this, that's going to have a big effect."

The Indians had a chance in the fourth game, heating up after falling behind 20-10 at one point. They got to within 24-22 before an Indians kill attempt went into the net for the game-winner.

"I thought we were coming back in the fourth," Keethe said. "We just needed one more break. But it never came."

The same thing happened in the fifth. The Indians led 6-4 before Falcons outside hitter Erika Cuevas (21 kills) had five kills and a block to close it out for Christian Brothers.

This match was a tense battle between two even teams, much different from the Falcons' three-game sweep of Ripon in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.

"This is definitely a step up from our last match," Duren said. "We picked it up and made a good run through NorCals. And we nearly got this one."

Instead, it'll be the Falcons playing for the state title.

"It was such a great feeling coming out of Menlo (Ripon's NorCal semifinal opponent) and knowing we were going to play Christian Brothers again," Perkins said. "We didn't play to our full potential tonight, but we played pretty well. We had it. And then we lost it."