Maya DeJong and Elle Van Wyngarden were rewarded for their consistent work rate in a first-place showdown against defending Southern Athletic League champion Mariposa on Thursday.
The two Ripon Christian wingers connected for the Knights’ lone goal, which forced a 1-1 draw that keeps them at the top of the table with six regular-season matches remaining.
“We knew coming into the game it was going to be a tough one,” Ripon Christian coach Kevin Tameling said. “(Mariposa) knew they had to get some kind of result today to have a chance (at winning the title) going forward.”
DeJong was the goal scorer in Ripon Christian’s 1-0 win at Mariposa on Dec. 16. She had more scoring chances in the rematch against the Grizzlies (5-1-1 SAL, 5-1-2 overall), but this time the freshman delivered the assist.
With the Knights (7-0-1, 10-4-2) trailing in the 48th minute, DeJong won a 50-50 ball near the 18-yard line and dribbled toward the end line before dishing a left-to-right cross to Van Wyngarden.
“I saw it was open down the line and when I looked up I saw the opportunity (to cross the ball) because it was pretty open on that side of the box,” DeJong said. “I thought she had a very good chance.”
A Mariposa defender got to the ball first but could not control it, allowing Van Wyngarden to tag it past the goalkeeper with a sliding left-footed strike.
“I wanted to do it for my team,” Van Wyngarden said. “We really deserved that goal for how hard we worked in the first half.”
DeJong called the second half “very exhausting” following a more tactical opening 40 minutes. The pace picked up after Mariposa broke the ice in the 25th minute when Lupin Amstutz received a diagonal through ball and blew it by Knights netminder Nicole Chapman (four saves) on the first touch.
The two teams traded scoring opportunities throughout the second half, but Mariposa’s were less threatening.
Amstutz had another crack in the 62nd minute but sent her off-balance left-footed try from the top of the 18 well wide. Ruby Yager had the Grizzlies’ next best chance in the 77th with a breakaway up the middle, but her rushed attempt was blasted high.
Each team took 11 shots overall after combining for just five in the first half.
“Paying attention to detail and not allowing (Amstutz) to get in behind us,” Tameling said of his back line’s effort against Mariposa’s slick striker. “She was coming through the middle and we had some confusion going on with who was assigned to watch her. We had a quick conversation after the goal because she is very dangerous.”
As was DeJong for the Knights, along with on the opposite wing Van Wyngarden and Rachel Oosterman in the middle. DeJong had two good looks late, but both one-time strikes inside the penalty box went over the crossbar.
“Maya’s coming into her own as a freshman, learning the game a little bit,” Tameling said. “The girl has a lot of energy.”
With Ripon Christian’s toughest opponent out of the way, Tameling said his team is not in the clear in the quest for its first league championship since 2017. There are still games again against Waterford and Gustine, who are in the mix for postseason berths. The Knights will next host Delhi on Tuesday.
“We’ve learned that in the game of soccer anything can happen,” Tameling said. “Every game coming up is important for us.”