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GIRLS WATER POLO: Ripon falls to Lodi in 1st NorCal appearance
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Mia Sickler-Lopez (11) winds up for a shot she would make for Ripon in front of Lodi’s Shelby Richardson (8). - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

LODI — Ripon ended its best season Tuesday in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division III NorCal Regional Championships at Tokay High, but there were no feelings of sadness following the 8-4 defeat to third-seeded Lodi.

The Indians (18-8) earned a second straight outright title in the Valley Oak League and were able to advance to their first Sac-Joaquin Section final, losing to Dixon 4-3 in a defensive battle this past weekend. One of just three Ripon seniors, Taylor Blair is proud of the team’s achievements despite it dropping its final two contests of the season.

“In the beginning of the season I didn’t even think we were going to make it past the first round of the Section,” Blair said. “Not only did we do that, we made it to the championship round. Even though we didn’t pull it out it was cool just making it there and then getting to play in a state game.”

Sixth-seeded Ripon held its own against an opponent from a school with twice the enrollment. Lodi (23-4) is the reigning SJS Division II champion and heads to Palo Alto on Thursday to face No. 2 Gunn (19-10) in the NorCal semifinals.

The Flames were paced by Morgan Vice, who scored all three of her game-high three goals in the second quarter. Jenna Bigelow landed minute later. the first blow, scoring with no time left at the end of the opening period.

Lodi seemed to be well on its way to a drama-free win, but Ripon received a needed boost with 1:20 left in the first half when Hailey Knief buried a shot off an assist from Samantha Scheid. The score remained 4-1 by halftime.

“In the first half, I wouldn’t say we were nervous but we were kind of waiting to see how it goes,” Ripon’s Samantha Scheid said. In the second half, we picked up and noticed how they went to the middle a lot so we baited it.”

The adjustments paid off, at least for a quarter. Kennedy Brubaker scored with 3:13 remaining in the third quarter and assisted Scheid 40 seconds later, drawing the Indians closer, 5-3. Lodi’s Shelby Richardson answered a minute later, but Ripon was in the game.

Keeping the Indians within reach was goalie Delaney Brubaker, who had 11 saves in the second half. In the third quarter alone, she stopped a penalty shot and a one-on-one transition attempt by Vice. The Brubaker twins make up the rest of Ripon’s triumvirate of seniors.

“We played more our style of game than we did in our past couple games,” Blair said. “I think we adapted pretty well to their team and played pretty well overall.”

Mia Sickler-Lopez scored in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but Ripon could not muster another goal. Lodi was able to put it away with two uncontested goals from right wing Emily Engle.

With three juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen returning, expectations are sure to be higher for the Indians next season.

“It was cool to see if we can match up with (Lodi) because I know they are a really good team,” Scheid said. I’m very excited (for next year) because I know that there are going to be many of us coming back, and maybe there is some new talent coming in to help the team grow and exceed what we did here.”