Ripon Christian laughs last.
The Knights played rival Ripon for a third time in 11 days Tuesday and came back from a one-goal deficit to prevail 2-1 in the rubber match. The two previously squared off in the Hughson Husky Cup and Ripon Christian Classic and split the contests.
Ripon Christian (6-3) lost to Ripon (4-5) via penalty-kick shootout in the championship match of its own tournament Saturday, so getting revenge on the same field 72 hours later was sweet.
“We felt we could have played better than we did on Saturday so it feels pretty good to get this one,” said Danny Vander Molen, RC’s fourth-year forward.
The Knights have Vander Molen to thank for the comeback win, as he was involved in the tying and go-ahead goals in the final 13 minutes of the match. In the 68th minute, he was left unchallenged outside the penalty box along the right sideline when he distributed a perfect cross to cousin Travis Vander Molen, who leaped high for the scoring head shot.
“The ball was about to roll out, but I didn’t feel anybody behind me I figured that I might as well save it,” Danny Vander Molen said. “I turned, looked to the middle and sure enough there was a large amount of Ripon Christian players there. I just put it in there and Travis, with the solid head he has, did the rest.”
Vander Molen again showed off his accuracy in the 75th minute, this time as the striker. After Andrew Manes set him up with a nice touch pass, Vander Molen — camped out near the upper-left corner of the 18-yard box — crushed it past Ripon keeper Johnathan Soto (3 saves) and to the opposite panel.
Ripon Christian held up defensively over the final minutes to secure the win and bragging rights.
“I’m very happy with the way they adjusted in the second half,” Ripon Christian coach Keith Terpsma said. “We decided on a better game strategy at halftime and they did exactly what I asked them to do. We were playing long balls, just getting rid of it in a panic. We needed to keep it smaller and possess the ball better, and it allowed us to get the eventual long ball into the corners, which is how we scored our first goal.”
It was a tale of two halves for both teams. To put it simply, Ripon dominated the first half, and the final 40 minutes belonged to Ripon Christian.
Victor de la O drilled a mid-range shot to put Ripon on board in the 37th minute, but the Indians had chances to bury their rivals early. They held a 12-3 advantage on shots and had four corner kicks against none for RC. Their best scorers, Noah Lehmann and Thomas Sidtikun, were heavily involved on the attacking third but with nothing to show for it.
“We definitely have to work on our finishing, that has definitely been our Achilles’ heel this year,” Ripon coach Jamie DeBruyn said. “When we are able to get guys in the right spots we can’t finish, or someone would find an open spot in the defense but we can’t get it to him. Offensively we have to work on a lot of things, because right now we’re not on the same page.”
An even bigger issue could be plaguing Ripon. DeBruyn wants to see a better effort from whistle to whistle after seeing his team’s energy level drop significantly in the second half, when Ripon Christian turned the tables on shot attempts (8-3) and corner kicks (5-0).
“There was a lack of execution in the second half, but I’m more concerned that they had no fight, no passion,” DeBruyn said. “I don’t know if they were (satisfied with) a 1-0 lead, but (against) any good team when you’re 1-0 you have to keep fighting.
“As soon as (Ripon Christian) put in that second goal I saw heads drop. I knew we were done. They didn’t have the fight after that.”
Ripon has four more matches to work out the kinks before kicking off Trans-Valley League play against visiting Hilmar on Sept. 30. Up next for the Indians is a trip to Venture Academy (Stockton) on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Ripon Christian plays host to Hughson on Thursday in its final tune-up for next week’s Southern League opener against defending champion Le Grand.
Weston Ranch 3,
Hector Maldonado fired two goals as the Cougars improved to 6-2-2. Omar Centeno added a goal, while, Kevin Medina, Angel Portillo and Joseph Mayorca each chipped in an assist.
Eduardo Acosta (3 saves) and Jose Martinez (save) combined for the clean sheet.
Lathrop 6, Sonora 1
The Spartans (6-4-1) put together their best effort of the season with Tuesday’s drubbing of their former Valley Oak League rival.
Sergio Carrillo (two), Cedric Arauzo, Hairo Silva and Ulysses Almanza scored for Lathrop, which also benefited from an own goal from the Sonora defense. Ramiro Ceja-Flores and Christian Cardenas each had an assist.
“We finally put together a game for 80 minutes, and the outcome showed with the results of what this team can do,” said first-year coach Alfredo Reynaga.
Lathrop 5, Sonora 1
Luis Angel Vargas poured in three goals, and Alexis Palomares and Adrian Nieblas buried one apiece for good measure.