The five Stanislaus District volleyball teams remaining in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs will play semifinal matches tonight at 7 p.m.
At stake is a berth in Thursday's section championships at UC Davis. For the loser, their season is over.
Perhaps the most surprising semifinalist is Merced, the third-place team out of the Central California Conference. The No. 15-seeded Bears shocked No. 2 Rodriguez of Fairfield in the first round of the Division I tournament, then stopped No. 10 Folsom. Both wins came in five games.
The Bears' semifinal opponent, Davis of Yolo County, conversely, has only lost one game in its last nine matches.
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In the only local home match, Ripon -- the No. 1 seed in the Division IV field -- takes on an always-tough challenger in No. 4 Golden Sierra. The Trans-Valley League champion Indians are counting on a big game from junior outside hitter and setter Kirsten Duren.
Three other local teams hit the road:
In Division IV, Western Athletic Conference champion and No. 7 seed Hilmar is at No. 6 Christian Brothers. Christian Brothers has won the last two section titles.
In Division V, defending section champion Turlock Christian is at top seed Forest Lake Christian of Auburn in a rematch of last year's final. TC won last year's match in three games.
In the other Division V semifinal, No. 7 Ripon Christian is at No. 6 Wilton Christian. RC swept No. 2 Stone Ridge Christian in the second round.
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