SAN FRANCISCO — Ripon was unsuccessful in its bid to return to a CIF Northern California Regional Championships final, but there may be more opportunities ahead for these youthful Indians.
Seeded fourth in the Division V bracket, they lost to reigning champion Lowell 1-0 on Thursday afternoon. Last year, it was the Cardinals who travelled to the Central Valley and defeated Ripon 2-1 in the inaugural NorCal Division IV title match.
Audrey Fuchs came through with the deciding goal in the 50th minute. Top-seeded Lowell (16-2-1) was fully in control for much of the match and outshot the Indians 11-1 in the opening half but survived a late salvo of attempts from the visitors.
“Lowell has such an impressive squad,” Ripon coach Nichole Meyer said. “It’s the same team they had from last year but more fine-tuned. Their touches were precise and on point and they attacked out of the back with a ton of speed and strength.
“It’s something we hadn’t been challenged with up to this point since the preseason, so it took some adjusting.”
Meyer gave a nod to her defense — consisting of Nicole Brown, Kierra Chavez, Deanna Sandoval, Kailey Tijero and goalie Ashley Pugh (10 saves) — that kept the Indians (19-4-1) in the game.
Lowell finally broke through 10 minutes into the second half as Ripon looked to ward off a corner kick. Tijero cleared it to the 18-yard line with a header, where Fuchs waited with little resistance. She zipped a shot through the horde of bodies in the box and found a corner of the frame.
It was the wake-up call Ripon needed.
“It was a little bit of a shock to a lot of us, especially for our keeper,” Meyer said. “It could have been stopped earlier on and by the time it got to her she didn’t have much time to react.
“After that it seemed like the girls understood it was a dire situation. I can’t remember the last game we were down.”
Desperate to tie it up, Ripon pressed its attack in the final 10 minutes when it had all of its best chances. Ariana Scholten missed high on an open volley and later sent two direct kicks wide of the goal.
In the final seconds, Sandoval was fouled on the edge of the penalty box but was deemed to be outside of the line, denying Ripon a penalty kick. The center ref signaled the end of the match after the ensuing free kick was blasted off target and through the end line.
Lowell hosts unbeaten No. 2 seed University Prep (29-0) of Redding in the final round Saturday. Ripon, meanwhile, will prepare to defend its Trans-Valley League and Sac-Joaquin Section titles next year with only four seniors graduating.
“We have come a long way this year,” Meyer said. “We focused on a lot of little goals at a time. NorCal is difficult in itself, so after winning another section title we just wanted to see how long we could ride the wave and once again we rode it pretty far. We’re forward to continue to build on these same concepts.”