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Ripon water polo, Ranch soccer face VOL foes for section titles
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They’re in different divisions this year for the playoffs, but they are back in the in the Sac-Joaquin Section finals.

Both top-seeded teams will meet familiar foes Saturday.

The Ripon boys water polo team squares off with Sonora for the Division III championship at Woodcreek High of Roseville starting at 11:30 a.m. Meanwhile, in Stockton, the Weston Ranch boys soccer team returns to Lincoln High’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium for a rematch with Oakdale. The is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m.

It’s the inaugural year for Division III water polo in the SJS. Last season, the Indians marched to the Division II championship and nearly stunned longtime powerhouse Rio Americano, 16-15.

“That helped a lot,” Ripon senior Kole Gonzalez said after last week’s win over Christian Brothers in the second round. “It pushed our confidence way up. We know we could hang with D1 and D2 teams.”

Following a first-round bye, Ripon overcame No. 9 Christian Brothers 12-8 and blew past No. 4 Oakmont 17-11 in the semifinal. Gonzalez racked up 11 goals in the two games and leads the Indians (16-6) with 70 for the season.

Ripon (16-6) has twice beaten Sonora (17-10), once in VOL play, 12-5, then again in the 23rd annual DeLong Memorial Tournament, 15-7. The sixth-seeded Wildcats thumped No. 11 Livingston 19-6 in the opening round before upsetting Benicia and El Capitan, the third and second seeds, respectively. Seth Farwell, a 6-foot-5 senior, has scored more than 80 goals for Sonora.

Weston Ranch (23-4-2) was elevated to Division III after claiming the Division IV banner a year ago as well as back-to-back VOL championships. Despite his team’s higher seed, coach Francisco Cisneros told the Bulletin after the Cougars’ 3-0 semifinal shutout of No. 4 Vista del Lago that Weston Ranch is the “underdogs” for the title match.

That’s because second-seeded Oakdale (20-3-5) is responsible the Ranch’s two league losses, and neither were close. The Mustangs ended Weston Ranch’s league winning streak at 26 with a dominant 4-1 triumph on Sept. 30. They then welcomed the Cougars to their home pitch on Oct. 26 and prevailed, 4-2. Three ties and a loss — all against third-place finishers East Union and Sierra — prevented Oakdale from capturing the VOL title.

Oakdale’s road to the final was a stressful one. It needed extra time to get past its first two opponents, No. 15 Mira Loma and No. 7 Rio Americano, and Collin Harrity’s goal in the final 10 minutes pushed the Mustangs past No. 3 Patterson 1-0 in the semifinals. Junior midfielder/forward Wesley Allen paces Oakdale scorers with 18 goals and 12 assists, but he has seven teammates with at least six goals apiece.

Weston Ranch trounced its last two opponents, No. 8 River Valley and Vista del Lago, by a combined 8-1 margin, but its season was seconds away from ending in the first round. Sixteenth-seeded Bethel had a 2-1 lead in stoppage time before Joseph Mayorca fired the equalizer on the final play of regulation. He ended  up with four goals in the dramatic 6-2 win.

Mayorca has 42 goals this season, seven coming in the postseason. His goal total ranks him third in the section.