RIPON — A win was as good as a tie for Hilmar at Ripon’s Stouffer Field on Monday.
The visiting Yellowjackets maintain their lead atop the Trans-Valley League standings after escaping with a 1-1 draw.
With three games left in the regular season, the Indians (6-2-1, 10-6-2 overall) will need some help to gain ground. They trail Hilmar (7-0-2, 13-3-4) by four points, but Hughson and Mountain House are nipping at their heels for postseason berths. The top three teams in league advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, and Ripon just so happens to have Mountain House and Hughson in the final week of TVL play.
“They’ve always been a consistent, good team, so we weren’t expecting to stomp them,” first-year Ripon coach Nichole Meyer said of Hilmar. “Playoff position is what we’re aiming for.”
It was a tale of two halves with the Yellowjackets dominating the action. They outshot Ripon 8-1 in the first 40 minutes and broke the ice in the 12th minute when Hannah Sanders knocked in the cross from Juliann Machado.
Ripon stepped up its play in the second half and had a 6-4 advantage on shots. The game was tied on freshman Tianna Sidtikun’s penalty kick in the 42nd minute. The PK was awarded after a Hilmar defender was penalized for a handball in the penalty.
“We definitely need a half to warm up, we’ve seen that in most of our games,” Meyer said. “In the first half we focused on defense first and then make the adjustments for the second half. We changed up our game plan to (adjust) to the wind and I think it ended up working better for us.”
Both sides had great opportunities to go ahead.
Hilmar’s Michaela Petersen just missed on a highlight-worthy try, but her volley off a corner kick from Machado skipped off the crossbar. Later in the match, Emily Vieira fired from long range only to have Ripon keeper Alyssa Thweat (five saves) leap straight up to make the grab.
Hilmar goalie Mikayla Schmidt came up with three big saves in the second half to help preserve the statemate. In the 57th minute, she came off her line to stuff Cindy Alvarez’s one-on-one opportunity set up by a long punt by Thweat.
And in the final three minutes, Schmidt dove to her left to snatch Sidtikun’s 35-yard blast on a direct kick then secured a short-range shot from Megan Johnson moments later.
“She had some big saves there at the end,” Hilmar coach Doug Delay said. “The whole team played well. I don’t really look at where we’re at as far as wins and losses. Obviously, we’re having a real good season and we want to win every game we can, but more importantly we want to play good soccer and I think we did that tonight. We gave up the PK with the handball, but outside of that we played well.”