For the fourth consecutive year, the Hilmar High volleyball team made it to the Division-IV Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game, and for the fourth straight year they came up just short of winning the banner.
This time the loss came at the hands of their Trans-Valley League rivals, Ripon High, but it wasn't in a blowout like the first two meetings, instead in the team’s third meeting of the year was the closest of all as it ended in a 3-2 final from Tokay High on Saturday.
“I don’t think they expected Hilmar to come out the way we did and that is all they've been doing since the middle of the season, they just been climbing, going up and up,” said Hilmar head coach Patti Harris. “I am really proud of them and the fact that we made them earn it, they can't just rip it off our hands.”
In the first two games the Yellowjackets fell to Ripon a combined 6-1, winning just one set in two games played during the regular season.
Saturday's match was arguably one of the most exciting, especially the first set which nearly saw one side amass 30 points for the set.
Hilmar came out and provided the Indians of Ripon with a battle they did not see coming and they won the opening set, 29-27.
“It was a great game. Before we started I told the girls how much we've grown from the beginning of the season to where we are now,” said Harris. “And just getting to this point is great, they overcame a lot from naysayers and they just exploded all season.”
However, the catalyst of the game was Ripon senior Samantha McCreath, who provided the Indians with a huge spark and was without question the most dominant and ferocious player of the match. Without her the outcome could very well have been different.
“She is an absolute awesome player,” said Harris of McCreath. “She is strong and smart and can thread the ball or go around the block; she was getting us every time. It was tough to defend her, she hit over our blocks, she is such a great player and we couldn't shut her down but it’s okay, it’s a good year.”
McCreath made her ability known, especially in the closing two sets and during the fourth set when she scored 11 kills in Ripon’s 15-1 run to seal the fourth set and force the fifth.
Ripon won the second set 25-22 and then the third belonged to Hilmar in a 25-22 decision just before Ripon made a comeback in the fourth.
Hilmar went up early at 14-7 followed by a 16-10 score just before Ripon called a timeout and went on a run.
Ripon went on a 15-1 run, forcing the fifth set with a 25-17 win in the fourth.
“Even going into this game you could see the improvement from the girls which was a lot and they started to put it all together and believed in each other and so you know it was a really good match,” said Harris. “It was a great matchup, Ripon is a really good team but I think they were surprised.”
The Indians of Ripon clinched the fifth set, 15-12, as they sent the Yellowjackets home for the fourth straight year without a banner.
Ripon still has only lost twice all year long as they improve to 23-4 overall for the year. Hilmar drops to 23-13.
Ripon has won 11 matches in a row while Hilmar came in with a six-game win streak. Their last loss was at the hands of Ripon in a 3-1 loss to the Indians back on Oct. 18.
Hilmar finished the TVL year with a 10-2 posting while Ripon was perfect at 12-0.
Ripon graduates six players while Hilmar returns their core of their squad with Hannah Pearce, Mariah Ahid and Erin Benning returning. Only four players will be lost from this year’s squad for the 'Jackets, who have much to look forward to next season.
Hilmar advances into the Division-IV CIF State tournament and will travel on the road to take on Lick-Wilmerding of San Francisco at 7 p.m. Wednesday.