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Playoff window closing on Ripon after scoreless tie
Escalon defender Mason Silva denies the sliding shot attempt by Ripon’s Alec Vitale Thursday at Mistlin Park. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
RIPON — From the defensive endline to the midfield stripe, Ripon High played near flawless soccer during a key Trans Valley League match against Escalon at Mistlin Sports Complex.

Beyond the halfway line the Indians were connecting passes and building well-orchestrated attacking runs.

But much like it has been all year, the 18-yard line  proved once again to be their kryptonite in a 0-0 stalemate that hurts both teams’ chances to sneak into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.

Although the shot stats were fairly even, 15-13 in favor of Ripon (5-4 on frame), the Indians won the possession battle, had more opportunities on set pieces (8-2 on corner kicks) and were often one touch away from finishing off crossing runs.

Ripon (2-3-3, 6-9-4 overall) nearly came away with a dramatic goal in the final minute of play.

Jared Ratto sent in a well-timed cross from near the right corner arc. Bryant Macias was a half stride away getting a touch on it, and the ball skipped right over the laces of Alec Vitale’s right boot.

Sequences like that tell the story of Ripon’s sometimes-frustrating 2010 season that has included some well-played soccer with only ties and heartbreaking losses to show for it.

“It just seems like we’re unlucky,” Ripon coach Jamie DeBruyn said. “It’s an unlucky year, and things just don’t play out for us the way we see it in our heads.

“I can’t knock them for what they’re doing, it’s good soccer. We just can’t convert for whatever reasons.”

Escalon (3-3-2, 11-4-3) took most of its attempts from non-threatening distances, but it did have the best look of the match late.

With five minutes remaining, Carlos Algandar delivered a perfect cross to Nestor Mancilla on the right side, but his shot was slapped away from Ripon goalie Tim Combley (4 saves)  and the ball bounced hard off the crossbar before getting cleared out of the box.

“I’m surprised that shot didn’t go in for Escalon, because that just would’ve been our (luck),” DeBruyn said. “That’s exactly what happens. We play strong, defensive ball and the one mistake we make back there usually results in a goal.”

Combley was otherwise untested thanks to back-line starters Brett Clark, Cesear Nuno, Tamim Shetab and Justin Cardoza.

“That was my concern at the beginning of the season was my defense, but that’s where we are solid,” DeBruyn said. “Those guys pitched a shutout with one legit shot on goal (allowed) that Tim had to make a beautiful save on.”

The postseason is still within reach for both Escalon and Ripon, the No. 5 and 6 teams, respectively, in the seven-team TVL. Going into the match, Ripon trailed third-place Hughson, by just five points. The top three teams advance with only Hilmar (7-1, 11-4-4) virtually locked in as a qualifier.

Ripon has four games to go, and three of them are on the road, starting with Hughson next Tuesday, against other playoff contenders.

“It’s getting further and further away from us,” DeBruyn said of the Indians’ playoff chances. “It’s still a possibility though, because everybody beneath Hilmar is cracking away at each other. But the three ties in league might hurt us in the long run.”

Southern League
Le Grand 4, Ripon Ch. 0
At Le Grand, goalkeeper Jacob Meeuwse recorded 10 saves for the Knights (1-9, 3-14), but the SL’s second-place squad had too much firepower.