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Ripon rejuvenated by outright title

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POSTED November 6, 2013 12:47 a.m.

It turns out Ripon High’s boys soccer team has its first Trans-Valley League championship all to itself.

Hilmar battled the Indians (16-5-3) to a 2-2 tie in their Oct. 30 regular-season finale, and it was believed the title would consequently have to be shared with reigning king Riverbank. Within the next 48 hours it was discovered Riverbank had used an ineligible player against Hughson on Oct. 28, turning a 3-0 win into a loss by forfeiture.

That helped the Indians gain a favorable seed and a first-ever home game in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs. They will host No. 6 seeded Bret Harte (8-13-3) starting at 5 Thursday evening at Stouffer Field. Next door, Ripon Christian (13-6-3) opens Division VII play against Cristo Rey (8-7-1).

“That was a big thing for the guys,” Ripon coach Jamie DeBruyn said. “They were kind of bummed out after the tie against Hilmar knowing they had to share the championship, so (Riverbank’s forfeit) really sparked them up.

“I could tell it was starting to soak in a little more (Monday) in practice. They’re focused on the playoffs now and excited to play in front of their classmates and under the lights of their own field.”

While No. 3 Ripon has its advantages Thursday, it also won’t be at full strength. Three of its top players are out, two of them starters who will miss the rest of the season to academic ineligibility. The third is serving a one-game suspension after being booked for a red card in the Hilmar game. The Indians will be minus their best defender and two physical and skilled midfielders.

“Guys have got to step up,” DeBruyn said. “We still have two seniors in the back line and this could be it for them. We’ll need a big game from (goalkeeper Jonathan) Soto, and up front we’ll have to find ways to create opportunities with Roberto (Alvarez).”

Bret Harte finished third in the Mother Lode League behind No. 1-seeded Linden (17-4-2) and Division VI No. 5 seed Summerville.  The Bullfrogs were swept in two games by Linden by a combined 10-0 margin.

The Indians lost to Linden in a nonleague match 3-1, but DeBruyn said his team has improved since the Sept. 5 showdown. They also own a 2-0 win over No. 8 Delhi in Hughson’s Husky Cup.

“We don’t know too much about (Bret Harte), but I know they have a couple of good players up front and a decent defense,” DeBruyn said. “They also play on a turf field, so our field won’t be anything new to them.”

Linden and second-seeded Galt (16-4-3), which plays larger schools in the competitive Sierra Valley Conference, are favorites in Division V. Galt reached the tougher Division IV final as the No. 7 seed last year and lost. Riverbank looms as a darkhorse from the No. 5 spot as it looks to return to the championship round.

Ripon Christian returns to the postseason after grinding through a rigid schedule that includes a penalty kick shootout win over top-seeded Forest Lake Christian (14-5-1). The Knights were also well tested going into last year’s playoff run, giving them reason to believe they could contend. They ended up losing to eventual champion Sacramento Country Day in the semifinals, 4-0.

“We were tough but inexperienced and unprepared for the playoff atmosphere,” RC coach Keith Terpsma said. “Last year’s playoff appearance taught us not to underestimate our opponent. We’ve worked a lot on gaining mental toughness at the end of the regular season this year so that we could be prepared for anything. We are definitely hungry to win.”

The third-seeded Knights are certainly not overlooking No. 6 Cristo Rey (8-7-1), which drops down from Division VI where it reached the semifinals a year ago. The Saints were the runners-up behind Forest Lake Christian in the Central Valley California League and split the season series with the champion.

The senior tandem of Pedro Vasquez (11 goals, 10 assists) and Alberto Espindola (10 goals, 8 assists) and freshman Jairo Manzamo (9 goals, 7 assists) are their top scorers.

“It looks like Cristo Rey has 3 main playmakers, but as far as style of play and formation we’ve yet to determine how to approach the game, other than creating opportunities as they present themselves,” Terpsma said. “We won’t underestimate their offensive possibilities.”

Second-seeded Faith Christian (15-6-1) out of Yuba City will be the likely semifinal opponent for RC should it get past Cristo Rey. Terpsma expects defending champion Sacramento Country Day, which faces No. 4 Western Sierra Collegiate Academy (14-1-3) in Rocklin, to remain a threat.

“We dream big and look a few games ahead; then we step back and take it one game at a time because that’s what it takes to win each match,”  Terpsma said. “We’ll focus on Cristo Rey in the first round Thursday and then decide what’s next for us, but our goal is to win out and grab the section title.”

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