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RC loses heartbreaker in 1st NorCal appearance
Muir-Vickrey’s 2nd-half hat trick keys comeback win for Winters
Winters-Ripon Christian girls soccer
Ripon Christian midfielder Addison DeJong turns away from Winters standout Ava Muir Vickrey. - photo by SEAN KAHLER

Winters could not unlock Ripon Christian’s ironclad defense in the first half of their California Interscholastic Federation Division V Northern Regional opener on Tuesday.

Ava Muir-Vickrey was the key.

The sophomore left winger scored three second-half goals and single-handedly changed a game that was dominated by the top-seeded Knights, who went on to lose their first NorCal appearance in heartbreaking fashion, 3-2.

Ripon Christian (22-4-1) went into halftime in full control, getting two fantastic goals from Tatum Sonke and Dayna Koolhaas while the back line limited Muir-Vickrey’s touches while quieting the rest of the No. 6 Warriors (17-4) of Yolo County.

Winters made adjustments for the second half. The main objective: let Ava cook.

“Great players always come alive in moments that require them to come alive,” Winters co-coach Alex Monsalve said. “She absolutely did that for us today. We told her to stay out wide, be patient and wait for the ball to come to her and she just created the magic on her own after that.

“That’s what special players do, and sometimes special players are the ones that win the game for you.”

Muir-Vickrey gave the Warriors life in the 50th minute, scoring her first goal emphatically with a stunning long-range bomb. Two minutes later, she tapped in the equalizer after Varenna Terronez spotted her on the opposite with a low-driven cross from the right corner.

The comeback was completed in the 71st minute when Muir-Vickrey beat three defenders off the dribble on a counterattack that started near midfield.

Only three of Winters’ 12 shot attempts were on frame, and all of them were makes for their skillful forward. She now has 28 goals on the season.

“As soon as they scored that first goal, you can just feel the tide shift,” Ripon Christian coach David Morris said. “They stepped into their game with a lot more confidence, and we just couldn’t hold them back. We knew they were a quality passing team and their forwards have a ton of ability. Once that wave started, we just couldn’t hold them back anymore.”

Ripon Christian also finished with 12 shots but had had an 8-3 advantage in the first half.

Winters-Ripon Christian girls soccer
Ripon Christian striker Dayna Koolhaas blasts a shot for a first-half goal ahead of Winters defenders Kylie Baker and Ismene Taylor.

Sonke caught the Winters’ defense off guard with her first goal in the second minute. She drilled it from about 30 yards out on the first touch, banging it off the inside of the upper-right corner of the frame. The assistant referee ruled that the ball had crossed the goal line before bouncing back into the field of play and onto the arms of Winters goalkeeper Violet Tuel.

Koolhaas doubled the Knights’ lead in the 20th minute, bursting past Winters’ center backs for the 1v1 opportunity. Midfielder Jeanne Osterman assisted the goal with a nifty volleyed flick.

“One of the ways for us to shut down their attack was to possess the ball, especially through the midfield and up front,” Morris said. “If their attack doesn’t have the ball, they can’t hurt us. We also talked about trying to keep them in front of us, so our defenders were able to keep their speed in front of them. We loved the first half and played the way we wanted to, but soccer is a game of two halves.”

Ripon Christian still created chances despite the big momentum shift in the second stanza, finding wingers Alanna Blanco, Brooke Barnes, Shelby Terra and Cora Vander Meulen with dangerous diagonal through balls.

Koolhaas in particular worked tirelessly in the final minutes to level the score.

She eventually got her shot in the 77th minute. From deep in Ripon Christian territory, Addison DeJong played a perfect long ball down the left touch line. Koolhaas was able to beat Winters defender Kylie Baker to the ball and had a great look at the goal after a cutback inside the penalty box.

The attempt was slammed off the crossbar.

“That one is going to hurt for a while,” Koolhaas said, fighting back the tears. “Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. That time it didn’t. There’s a reason why they’re still playing and why we are not, but I wish them the best.

“They’re an amazing team,” she added. “We came out and played the best we could, but in the second half they adjusted. It was taken away from us, and sometimes that happens. Good luck to them, they were really sweet.”

Koolhaas finished her remarkable senior campaign as one of the top goal scorers in the state with 42.

Winters will continue its season Thursday in the semifinal round against No. 2 Lowell (15-7-1) of San Francisco, which pummeled No. 7 Hamilton, 6-0. Top-seeded Hilmar hosts No. 4 University Prep in the other semifinal.

“We’ve usually lost this first game, so this is new for us,” Winters co-coach John McKenna said.

As for Ripon Christian, the future looks bright after claiming its third Sac-Joaquin Section title — the first in Division VI. The Knights are only losing five seniors, albeit all key players, in goalie Tara Heida, midfielder Helia Vander Meulen, defender Anika Schoolland, Terra and Koolhaas.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Morris said. “They’ve been a joy to coach. They’ve accomplished things that no other (previous Ripon Christian) team has done. We’ve won two Section championships before, but they were in D-VII and not in VI. We beat some teams this year that we’ve never beaten in our school’s history, and we beat some other teams we hadn’t beaten in like 10 years.

“So, this group has accomplished a lot. One of the things I told these girls is I don’t want this loss tonight to define the whole season for them. They’ve had a great season and performed so well.”