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Defenders return from injury boosts Ripon
Ripon Highs Michelle Cordova duels with Cassie Kennedy of Escalon for the ball during a Trans-Valley League match last spring. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

RIPON — Brianna Mortimer has returned to the field for the Ripon High girls soccer team, renewing the program’s playoff hopes.

The Indians missed the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason last spring for the first time since 2005.

They return a much more experienced, hungry team – with a defense that has coach Jose Bobadilla convinced Ripon can play with anyone in the Trans-Valley League.

Mortimer will anchor the defense from the sweeper position. She’ll be supported through the middle by stopper Morgan Carrico and goalie Yvette Serrano. The senior keeper gave up 1.3 goals per game last season.

“We should be very competitive,” said Bobadilla, whose team finished fourth in the TVL behind champion Hilmar, regional rival Escalon and Hughson.

“… I’m not worried about our defense,” he later added.

Mortimer’s return takes some of the edge off.

The fourth-year varsity starter was lost for the season when she was injured during a 1-0 loss at Amador on Feb. 28.

It was just the Indians’ second game.

Mortimer and midfielder Tia Sidtikun are the only players left from Ripon’s 2010 section championship team. Both players started as freshman.

“It’s a fickle game,” said assistant coach Bryce Perkins, “but for one bad bounce, one turned ankle or a single misjudgment by an athlete, a coach or an official the season can take a fortuitous or disastrous turn.”

The Indians appear to be on their way back with the return of Sidtikun, and they are looking to generate more offense. The crafty midfielder, who also stars for the girls basketball team, signed a national letter of intent to play at Cal State Monterey Bay on a partial athletic scholarship.

Ripon averaged 1.52 goals per game in 2012, continuing a steady offensive drought since the 2009 season. That spring, the Indians averaged 3.36 goals, punctuating the season with a 2-1 victory over Linden in the section championship.

“We obviously need scoring,” said Bobadilla, whose team opens the season Tuesday at home vs. Amador.

He hopes experience, maturity and the sting of their 2012 struggles will produce better results.

Ripon graduated just two players – Katherine Ratto and Rose Beeler – making this Bobadilla’s most senior-laden team since 2009.

Sidtikun will be flanked in the offensive end by Yvonne Serrano – Yvette’s twin sister – and Michelle Cordova.

Ripon will play its two biggest home games under the lights of Stouffer Field, a first for a program that has been moved around the city in years past.

Ripon will host Escalon on March 28 and Hilmar on April 12 in the football stadium.

The rest of Ripon’s home games will be played at Mistlin Sports Park.

“The girls are excited about the two games,” Perkins said.