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.
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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