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RC facing powerhouse in first section final
Ripon Christian midfielder Kaylin Groen tries to separate herself from Delta defender Jamee Stahl while on a breakaway in their Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII playoff opener on May 9. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Girls Soccer Championship
• WHAT: No. 3 Ripon Christian will face top-seeded Bradshaw Christian in the Division VII final.
• WHERE: Lincoln High, Stockton.
• WHEN: Today, 10 a.m.
• ADMISSION: Adults, $10; Students (k-12), $6; Kids 5-under, free.

RIPON – Kevin Tameling remembers a time not so long ago when Ripon Christian was all heart with little results.

His first season as an assistant coach ended with just four wins.

“That was a frustrating season,” said Tameling, now in his second season as the head coach. “Fortunately, we’ve had some really dedicated girls come through this program and we’ve seen our wins jump.”

And jump.

And jump.

Four years later, Ripon Christian has achieved its desired result, trading regular-season frustration for postseason elation.

The Knights will play in their first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section soccer final today against small-school superpower Bradshaw Christian.

Kickoff is at 10 a.m. on the slick turf surface at Lincoln High in Stockton.

“This has been a special season for us,” said Tameling, whose team has won 18 games and a Southern League championship.

“What happens (today) will be great. The girls are focused and excited, but win or lose, these girls will share some special times together. That’s what I’m thankful for.”

Hoisting a section pennant won’t be easy.

Bradshaw Christian is the Division VII tournament’s top seed, and rightfully so.

The Pride has reached either the Division VI or VII section final in five consecutive seasons. They’ve won three of the last four D-VI championships, including the last two by a combined score of 5-0 over Mariposa and Forest Lake Christian.

Bradshaw Christian is nothing short of an offensive juggernaut. The Pride has scored 71 goals since the beginning of April.  That flurry has been highlighted by 10- and 16-goal sprees against Rio Vista and Encina Prep en route to a Sierra Delta League crown.

By comparison, Ripon Christian has scored 79 goals all season.

“They’re a strong team,” Tameling said, “as all teams are at this point in the season. It will be a good challenge for us.”

What’s one more challenge, right?

Tameling front-loaded his schedule with playoff-caliber or large-school teams with the hope that his team would be battle-tested by league play.

What he didn’t anticipate was the Ripon Christian girls basketball team clinching a berth in the state tournament.

As the basketball season stretched on, Tameling was forced to play top-tier competition without several key players, including Kaylie Colyn and Teagan Manus.

The losses mounted.

Ripon Christian lost six of its first seven games, including regional tilts with Manteca (4-0) and across-the-street rival Ripon (6-0).

“When we were playing those games we didn’t have three or four of our starters,” Tameling said. “But there were girls who did play against some good competition. What that has done is increase the depth on our team. I can put any girl in the game and feel like we’re not missing a beat.”

It helps having a few stars, too. Manus and Colyn took care of the offense in Ripon Christian’s 4-0 victory over Victory Christian in Wednesday’s semifinal.

Manus netted a hat trick, while Colyn had three assists.

However, the difference-maker in Ripon Christian’s playoff run has been goalie Bryanna Heida. She kept Victory Christian – a team with a 50-goal performer in Rachel Furtado – scoreless with 10 saves.

“Throughout the year there have been some games where she didn’t get much action,” Tameling said. “You can’t develop without that action. This was a good game for her development and it was a big step for her to take.”

The sophomore will have her hands full again today. Bradshaw Christian has six players with 11 goals or more, including a team-high 25 by Jessica Syracuse.

The Pride has outscored their opponents 13-0 in two playoff games.

Tameling says his team isn’t concerned about Bradshaw’s goal differential or long list of accomplishments.

There’s still a game to be played – and he likes his team’s chances.

“These girls have stepped up in big moments,” he said. “Nothing would surprise me about my team right now.”