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Ripon, RC hit the road

Top-seeded Weston Ranch home again in Division IV

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Ripon, RC hit the road

Matt Uecker, left, celebrates his first-half goal for Ripon with Alejandro Aguilar during last Thursday’s 3-0 Sac-Joaquin Section playoff victory over Bret Harte at Stouffer Field.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo/

POSTED November 12, 2013 12:29 a.m.

The Weston Ranch, Ripon and Ripon Christian boys soccer teams enjoyed home-field advantage last Thursday when they opened the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Two of them won’t have that luxury Wednesday in the semifinal round. Ripon (17-5-3) gets a brutal second-round draw in the Division V bracket with its date at Galt starting at 6. In Division VII, Ripon Christian (14-6-3) travels even farther, as Faith Christian awaits the 3 o’clock kickoff in Yuba City.

Weston Ranch (16-5-4), meanwhile, returns to Cougar Country as the No. 1 seed in Division IV. The Cougars are coming off their first-ever playoff appearance, which ended in a thrilling penalty-kick shootout victory (1-1, 5-3 in PKs) over Natomas. On Wednesday they face another Tri-County Conference squad in fourth-seeded Woodland.

“It was definitely the biggest crowd we’ve had, and quite honestly I think they played a big role in the victory,” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said. “Just hearing them cheering gave our players that motivation to put forth the extra effort that helped us get the win. We hope to see the same on Wednesday, because it was definitely a home-field advantage with the crowed that we had.”

Weston Ranch is the hottest team in Division IV not having lost in more than a month. The Cougars are 6-0-2 record since a 3-2 loss (Oct. 8) to Sierra in Valley Oak League play.

There isn’t much information available on Woodland, which is 6-5-1 according to MaxPreps, so Weston Ranch plans on making adjustments on the fly. The Wolves split two TCC matches with Natomas.

What the Cougars do know is that they get stronger Wednesday with the return of striker Hector Maldonado and defender Alex Gonzalez, who were both serving red-card suspensions last week.

The bad news for Weston Ranch is that wing midfielder Kevin Medina fractured his hand against Natomas. He scored the Cougars’ goal in regulation, but his status for the semifinal remains in question. Senior forward William Giron could also be limited with an ankle sprain.

“We could be shorthanded again, but we have guys who can step up if we need them to,” Cisneros said. “Overall, the team is focused for the game ahead. They know what it means and they’re ready to play.”

Division V No. 3 seed Ripon will be as close to full strength as it can be No. 2 against Galt (17-4-3), a heavy favorite after reaching the Division IV final in 2012.

Freshman Thomas Sidtikun was out with a red card for the opener, but Ripon was able dispatch Bret Harte 3-0 in what was the Indians’ first-ever postseason home game.

“He brings so much speed to our midfield and up front,” Ripon coach Jamie DeBruyn said. “Fortunately for us, Matt (Uecker) and Flavio (Valadao) were able to finish for us last week. We can’t rely on Roberto (Alvarez) to do all the scoring and with Thomas out someone needed to step up and they did.”

Galt has two outstanding scorers in Alejandro Renteria and sophomore Isaac Martinez, who have 23 and 22 goals, respectively. The Warriors were runners-up in the competitive Sierra Valley Conference, and their schedule, which includes a 5-2 tournament loss to Weston Ranch, is loaded with top opponents in higher divisions. They also have a 5-0 nonleague win over Bret Harte, Ripon’s first-round opponent.

The Indians can expect an exuberant home crown Wednesday night. Galt has been known to have the school band and cheerleaders at its soccer matches. The Warriors’ only home losses have come in succession to SVC champion Cosumnes Oaks and third place Liberty Ranch.

“My guys are big enough soccer fans that they like that kind of atmosphere, so I think they’ll enjoy it,” DeBruyn said. “It’s playoff soccer, it should be like that. It’s good for the game.”

Ripon Christian will look to hand Faith Christian (14-6-3) its first home defeat of the season, as the Lions are 9-0-1 on their own turf.

Faith Christian has a prolific offense led by the senior tandem of Lorenzo Jiang and Sun Lee, who each have 27 goals and 14 assists. Sophomore Luke Bicknell (16 goals, 14 assists) is another weapon for Faith, which averages more than four goals per game.

Like Weston Ranch in Division IV, however, Ripon Christian is on a late-season roll. The Knights have not lost since dropping a 3-0 decision to Southern League champion Le Grand and are 7-0-1 since.

They have the more impressive resume of the two having played a tougher all-around schedule and in a better league. Faith Christian dropped three of its final four regular-season contests, including a 5-2 setback to Division VII top seed Forest Lake Christian in a nonleague contest.

Each of four remaining Division VII clubs own at least one section championship, with Forest Lake leading the way with four. Ripon Christian captured its Division III banner in 1994 and hasn’t reached a final since 1996.

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