No. 1 seeds enter semifinals tonight
Along with being matched up against the No. 16-seeded team in the first round of play, earning the No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section volleyball tournament means both Forest Lake Christian and Nevada Union will take to their home courts tonight with finals berths on the line.
Four-time defending Division I champion Nevada Union will look to make the finals for the fifth-straight year.
For Forest Lake Christian, a win would advance the Falcons to the Division V championship bout for the first time since 2001.
Both matches are scheduled to be served into play at 7 p.m.
Thursday’s section championship matches will be played at the University of California, Davis, with the Division V title match set for 4 p.m. and the Division I championship scheduled for 8 p.m.
Yuba City (34-7) at Nevada Union (29-6) – There’s plenty of recent history between the visiting Honkers and the host Miners, as the two teams competed as rivals in Metro Conference play for four years prior to this fall’s league realignment.
The teams also met in the section playoffs the past two seasons, including a Division championship match-up last fall.
In all 10 of those meetings, however, the Miners emerged with the win.
This time around, though, Yuba City has posted a 34-7 overall record and claimed the Division III Tri-County Conference with a perfect 15-0 record.
And the Honkers also recorded a 3-2 (21-25, 25-19, 25-20, 12-25, 15-12) win over the Miners in an Aug. 31 Foundation game.
“We just considered it an exhibition match,” said NU coach Bob Rogers, adding that the Miners worked with multiple lineups in the match. “Nevertheless, Yuba City played well.
“I don’t want to make too light of it, but we are highly-improved and we have different personnel now.”
A more-recent measuring stick between the teams came at the St. Francis Super 8 Tournament, where Yuba City fell to Christian Brothers and St. Francis – two teams Nevada Union handled on the way to the tournament title.
“Their coach, Eric (Smith), has done a nice job in taking them from being a mid-level team to being a top team,” Rogers said. “If they didn’t have to keep running into us, they might have won a section championship.”
Yuba City fell to the Miners 3-0 in the second round of the 2004 Division I tournament.
In 2005, the No. 7-seed Honkers knocked off No. 2-seed Lodi 3-2 in the second round and downed sixth-seed Folsom 3-1 to advance to the championship, where NU swept them 3-0 for the Miners’ fourth-straight section crown.
No. 1-seed Nevada Union advanced to tonight’s semifinal round with a pair of 3-0 wins over Modesto and Napa in the first and second rounds, respectively.
NU juniors Kyle Miraldi (22 kills), Sarah McAtee (21) and Christian Woodruff (15) have led the offensive attack through the first two rounds. Caroline Reeves has set up many of those spikes, totaling 56 assists in two matches.
Yuba City, the fourth seed, downed Vintage 3-0 in the opening round and beat Beyer 3-1 in round two.
The winner will face either No. 6 Davis or No. 2 Lodi in Thursday’s championship match at UC-Davis.
“I think it’s kind of up to us,” Rogers said. “If we play well, I think we won’t have a problem.
“I don’t think Yuba City’s best is good enough to beat our best. But we’ve got to play well.”
Ripon Christian (14-11) at Forest Lake Christian (19-8) – Travis Smith will forgive his Falcons if the words “Ripon Christian” don’t strike fear in their hearts.
But they do haunt their coach – not to mention a number of former Falcons who toed the line with Ripon Christian in seven Division V section championships.
Al but one of those seven showdowns ended in a win for Ripon Christian, which comprise the majority of the Knights’ 10 section championships – second only in volleyball section history to Linden’s 11.
“I wanted it to be anybody but Ripon Christian, but here it is … Ripon Christian,” Smith said. “But none of (the Falcons) remember Ripon Christian being the team to beat. They’re like ‘So what?’ because Ripon (Christian) hasn’t been the team to beat the past few years.
“But for me it’s one of those things I thought would haunt me forever.”
FLC’s lone section championship came in 1998, when the Falcons downed Ripon Christian in the semifinals to advance to the D-V title match. Forest Lake Christian then swept Denair 3-0 in the finals.
Smith said the fact that the Falcons, who fell in the semifinals last fall, are serving into play on their home court won’t hurt their chances. In fact, he sees it as quite the advantage.
“That’s huge,” he said. “There’s a group of guys on the soccer team who have been to most of our games and they’re loud and have all these crazy cheers …
“Playing at home is also gigantic because we just don’t travel well.”
Forest Lake Christian has been led by the setting tandem of Kim D’Antonio and Torrey Haddad, who each have 33 assists through two rounds of playoff action. Rebekah Koopmans has led the hitting with 14 kills, while Kelsey Andersson has 12 kills.
FLC downed Elliot Christian 3-0 to open tournament play, followed by a 3-1 win over Victory Christian in the second round.
Smith said, in addition to giving them a crash course on the history between the Falcons and Ripon Christian, he also told the Falcons to pay no attention to the No. 13 seed next to the name on the D-V bracket.
Ripon Christian topped fourth-seeded Wilton Christian (3-1) and No. 5 Stone Ridge (3-0) to advance to the semifinals.
Tonight’s winner will face the winner of No. 2 Woodland Christian and No. 3 Turlock Christian – last season’s section championship matchup – in Thursday’s final round.
To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4240.
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