Redding Christian cruises past Calistoga in NorCal D6 quarterfinal

PALO CEDRO — Redding Christian’s one hiccup came at the worst time of the season — losing the Northern Section Division VI final on Saturday to snap a 15-match win streak.

But the defeat only motivated the Lions even more to push for a CIF Northern California Regional championship.

Fourth-seeded Redding Christian made quick work of No. 5 Calistoga Wednesday night in a 25-7, 25-10, 25-15 home sweep in a CIF NorCal D-VI quarterfinal at Fitzpatrick Gymnasium.

The Lions only trailed for six total points — all before either team reached 10 in a set — and only let the Wildcats put together a three-point run once in the match.

“It was pretty tough losing Saturday,” Redding Christian coach Tammie Hartland said. “They played nervous the entire time and never let themselves relax and have fun and play the game they know how to play. Now they just want to come back and fight and hopefully get state.”

Division VI is a NorCal-only regional, a tournament the Lions were part of in 2015 but never made it out of the quarterfinal round. Add Wednesday’s victory to an already impressive resume that features 29 wins (most since 37 wins in 2005) and a perfect Five-Star League slate and the Lions have the makings of a historic season.

A big part of the reason the Lions (29-3) have gotten this far was the balanced attack of Calley Rupert, Emma Montague, Sammie Wunner and Olivia Sladek — all who have at least 135 kills on the season. Sladek led the way in the NorCal playoff win with eight kills while Montague had six kills, Rupert added five kills and Wunner chipped in with three kills for a dynamic offense thanks to the setting of Hope Dabbs and Laynee Fox.

“This is the most versatile team I’ve ever had,” Hartland said. “We have so many girls who can play multiple positions as far as hitting so that definitely helps and they play as a team. It’s not one person they go to every single time; they shoot it to whoever is open or who they feel like they can go to.”

Redding Christian played a near flawless opening set with Montague and Sladek getting involved early. Fox had a pair of kills to help the Lions jump ahead 13-3 and Rupert served six straight points — two coming from aces — as part of an 11-1 run before a Jackie Matos ace ended it 25-7.

Calistoga (13-10), which won the North Coast Section title as the eight-seed, took advantage of a couple Redding Christian hitting errors and a kill from Angeli Aquino to trim the deficit to 9-8. But the Lions fired off a 13-1 run to pull away, as Dabbs set Sladek for two kills and put one away on her own. Redding Christian scored three straight points in the set, one from a Matos ace before Fox dumped a kill in the middle of the floor for the set-sealer.

The Lions never trailed in the final set and got a variety of players involved early. Montague slammed a kill, Dabbs recorded back-to-back aces Rupert tallied a kill for a quick 4-1 lead. Redding Christian had seven of its 15 aces in the set, getting two from Rupert to push the Lion lead to 14-6 and they coasted until Fox’s match-ending ace completed the sweep.

Redding Christian travels to play top-seeded Stone Ridge Christian (29-6) in Merced on Saturday at 6 p.m. in a NorCal semifinal.

About T.J. Holmes

T.J. is a national award-winning journalist who has roamed sidelines, baselines and bleachers in the North State since 2010. He shares his passion for sports and the community with his fiancé Tracy, who works alongside him as a videographer for Shasta County Sports. Story tip: shastacountysports@gmail.com.

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