RIPON -- The Christian Brothers and Ripon High volleyball teams have met in the Division IV section championship match the last two seasons.
When the two teams met in a nonleague contest at Ripon High on Wednesday night, it looked like another match for a section title.
The Falcons rallied from a 14-10 deficit in the fifth game to hand the Indians a 25-16, 21-25, 21-25, 25-18, 18-16 defeat in front of a raucous crowd at Ripon's North Gym.
"All of our matches go like that," Ripon coach Larry Keethe said. "This is as close as we've come to beating them. We had them."
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It was a match of high-quality volleyball from the outset. Both teams were near the top of their collective game and it showed in the lengthy rallies and big kills.
Jenna Dunkel led Ripon with 21 kills, while teammate Kelsey Johnston had 24 assists.
The Indians (19-3) appeared to be on their way to the victory after jumping out to a 10-6 lead in the fifth game. When Kirsten Duren slammed down a point for a 14-10 lead, it appeared to be all but over.
Instead, the Falcons took charge, with junior outside hitter Whitney Swain pounding two hits and senior middle blocker Kayla Neto earning two points with a kill and block.
"Christian Brothers, that's a really good team," Dunkel said. "They never let anything drop. We knew we had to be at our best when we played. And I think we did that."
The teams traded points until Erika Cuevas had a kill for the Falcons and Dunkel's final kill attempt went just wide.
"We've played Loretto and Golden Sierra, and Ripon's the toughest match from a Division IV school we've had," Christian Brothers coach Jeff Deter said. "I'm hoping we're on opposite sides of the bracket in the playoffs, because I think we'd meet in the finals if that happened."
That's something the Indians are hoping for as well.
"We should meet each other again," said Keethe, referring to the section postseason.
The Indians have extra motivation with how Wednesday's match ended.
"Giving up five points (in a row) so late is tough," Dunkel said. "Hopefully we'll use that as motivation. We should end up playing them again."
While Ripon suffered its third defeat of the season -- and to the same team that defeated it in the last two section championship matches -- Keethe was happy with his team's play.
"I thought both teams played very well," he said. "I know I'm pretty happy with how we played. We just need to finish these matches out."
Bee staff writer Will DeBoard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.