SACRAMENTO -- Hilmar High volleyball coach Mike Alvernaz sat on the bench and looked up at the rafters after his team's match against host Christian Brothers on Tuesday night.
It was almost one year ago that he was in the same gym after his team lost to Christian Brothers 3-0 in one his team's worst matches of the season.
Tuesday wasn't the worst match of the season, but the result was the same as Christian Brothers won 3-0 at Ron Limeberger Gymnasium and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV final.
"Last year, we lost in 45 minutes," Alvernaz said. "This year, we kept up with them a little better."
Never miss a local story.
Hilmar (29-4) kept it close in the second game and held a 7-6 lead, but it was one of few leads in a 25-15, 25-21, 25-16 loss to the Falcons.
Christian Brothers (26-10) will head to its third consecutive section final because of its size, speed and athleticism. The Falcons will play Ripon at 6 p.m. Thursday at UC Davis in a rematch of last year's championship.
Hilmar had no answers for Brittany Woodard and Kayla Neto.
The two combined for 30 kills -- 18 for Woodard -- and helped spread out the Christian Brothers offense, which kept the Hilmar defense off-balance.
In the third game, Woodard played back row and dug out a hit attempt. She sprung to her feet and attacked the net and, after a feed from the setter, Woodard slammed a kill in the right corner of the floor to put Christian Brothers up 24-16.
"They were everywhere," Alvernez said. "We would rotate to cover right and they would hit it left. We would rotate left and they would hit it right. They're just a great team."
Christian Brothers had four girls taller than 6 feet, compared to zero for Hilmar.
Woodard, 6 feet, and Neto, 6-2, jump well and were able to get higher than Hilmar's front row on most of their kills.
Hilmar responded well in the second set and took a 7-6 lead on a Christian Brothers wide kill attempt. Hilmar didn't hold the lead after that point but kept the score within range before Christian Brothers closed the set with a Woodard kill.
"Our team goals were communication and aggression," Christian Brothers coach Diane Heine said. "At that point I didn't see that, so we had to remind them. We had to get them to play their games. From there on, I think our size got to them."
Hilmar was led in kills by junior Caitlin Benning with 10. Natalie Grubb had four kills and Lindsay Miguel three. Madison Harris had 16 assists.
RIPON CHRISTIAN 3, WILTON CHRISTIAN 0, at Wilton -- Andrea Terpstra had eight kills and five blocks to lead the No. 7 Knights past No. 6 Wilton Christian 25-7, 25-11, 25-13 and into the section championship match.
RC coach Tiger Shelton said senior Briana DeVries, who led the team with four aces, sparked the team.
Ripon Christian will play Turlock Christian, a 3-1 winner over top-seeded Forest Lake Christian. This is the fifth consecutive section championship match appearance for TC, which won it all last year. Ripon Christian hasn't been to the section championship final since 2002, the last of a four-year stretch of final appearances for the Knights.
DAVIS 3, MERCED 0, at Davis -- The Blue Devils ended the Cinderella playoff run of the 15th-seeded Bears with a 25-6, 25-22, 25-1 win in the semifinals.
"I'm ridiculously proud of them," said Merced coach Brooke Wilson, who was trying to lead Merced to its first section final appearance since 1981. "Merced isn't known for volleyball. I think we're still shocked we made it this far."
Merced reached the semifinals with two dramatic five-game thrillers last week. The magic finally ran out against the best team it faced this season. Senior middle Erika Marmolejo had three blocks and nine digs to lead Merced.
Shawn Jansen of the Merced Sun-Star contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Scott Oxarart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.