OAKDALE — The magical ride of the young Ripon boys water polo team came to an end Tuesday as the No. 6 Indians lost to the second-seeded Ponderosa Bruins 12-6 in opening-round action of the CIF NorCal Division III championships at Oakdale High School.
The roster for Ripon (16-10) boasts one senior, one sophomore and 10 freshmen. Conversely, Ponderosa’s 22-man-deep roster has just three freshmen.
The elder statesman of the Indians was senior Donavan Armstrong, who had an assist and two steals.
“I thought at best we would get second in league but we tied for first,” Armstrong said. “And then we made it all the way to win sections. At the beginning of the season I had no idea the journey we would go on to get to here.”
Freshmen Teo West (steal) and Ben Svoboda each made two goals and a steal.
“We exceeded all expectations for us, making it into NorCals” Svoboda said. “Obviously we would have liked to have won this game, but now we have set the bar and hopefully we can reach it again next year.”
Ripon freshman goalie Ben Rodgers had his hands full with 13 blocks, but none more special than blocking a penalty shot in the third period.
“It was the best thing ever,” Rodgers said of blocking the penalty shot. “As a first-time goalie, those are the most annoying things. When the ref indicated a 5-meter shot, that is almost an automatic goal.
“Since Day 1 I have wanted to block one and when I got that it was the best feeling ever.”
The Bruins (21-9) took a 4-1 lead into the second period.
“This is the most experienced team we have faced,” Rodgers said. “After that start coach told us that we needed to get our act together and then we did it for him. He tells us what we are doing wrong and we try our best to correct it.
“And then when we do it right, it works.”
Owen Curtiss (steal) and McKeane Beier each scored a goal for the Indians and Brody Biedermann added two assists and two steals.
Anthony Benedetti wasted little time in setting the tone for Ponderosa with three goals in less than 90 seconds to start the game.
“We immediately took charge,” Bruins coach Adam Donovan said. “Then we took our foot off the gas a little bit and we were asleep for about a quarter and a half. And then we obviously had a good third quarter. I’m not overly disappointed; it can be better. I mean in national championships you see Nick Saban up by 20 points and still screaming at his players.
“It’s hard to come back and play a game after winning a section title and have the same emotion. Plus, we drove two hours to get here so a lot of factors played into us being a little flat so I am going to go over and say a few words to the guys about being a little more attentive. If we play like that on Thursday we are going to get our butts kicked.”
Ponderosa will play second-seeded Harker of San Jose in a semifinal contest on Thursday.