DAVIS — At the end of last year's playoff run, Ripon Christian High volleyball coach Tiger Shelton had the audacity to call 2009 a rebuilding year for the Knights.
Kelsey Tillema, one of only three seniors on this year's roster, took offense.
"Coming from my junior year, when we had a lot of seniors, I guess it is," Tillema said. "But when Tiger says we're young, well, it's true.
But Ripon Christian grew up during the season and capped another perfect run through the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 playoffs Thursday with a 25-21, 25-13, 25-23 title game sweep of Bradshaw Christian at UC Davis.
The word "perfect" only starts to describe what the Knights accomplished in the postseason. For the second straight year, they claimed a division crown without losing a single game.
This is Ripon Christian's third straight section championship — their section-record 13th overall — and gives them a home match next week to open the NorCal playoffs.
Some rebuilding year.
"They didn't like it that I said this would be a rebuilding year," Shelton said. "They didn't want to be that team. But what else do you call it when you lose seven seniors and you have only 250 students in the entire school? It's still a rebuilding year, and Kelsey still hates to hear it.
"But we didn't expect to be here. We didn't expect to make the playoffs. These girls keep showing up and making me wrong — that's like their goal in life, to make me wrong."
Bradshaw Christian, the section's No. 1 seed, was no match for the Knights. Tillema controlled the middle with the help of junior setter Michelle Terpstra, while the Pride ran almost every play through talented outside hitter Patricia Orozco.
Ripon Christian jumped out 4-0 and 7-2 in the first game as the Pride burned through their timeouts trying to slow the pace. It served only to delay the inevitable. The Knights breezed through their first two games, and were pushed only in the final game when Bradshaw stayed within three points throughout. The final point, fittingly, came on a clean Tillema kill.
"We work so well together as a team that the young part doesn't matter," Tillema said. "I'm happy how we've improved over the year."
And next year? Well, throw out that rebuilding talk.
"I have a really good eighth grade team coming on," Shelton said. "So I guess the pressure will be back on."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.