A 1-1 tie with Gustine last month was Delhi’s only blemish in the Southern League.
Fighting to keep its postseason hopes alive, Ripon Christian stunned the conference’s top squad 2-0 behind a stout defensive effort and clutch goals from brothers Jon and Danny Vander Molen.
“There were too many guys playing well today to single anybody out,” said Ripon Christian coach Keith Terpsma. “This was a true team effort. We’re making a playoff run, and if the guys keep playing this way then we’ll be a force at the end of this league season and into playoffs.”
Perhaps the postseason has already begun for the Knights (6-3-3, 10-4-4 overall), who have a tough closing stretch to end the regular season. Four of their final five matches are on the road, including next week’s showdowns with third-place Le Grand and dangerous Mariposa.
Delhi (10-1-1, 14-3-1) and defending champion Gustine (8-0-3, 10-1-4) have locked up two of the three Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI berths.
Ripon Christian’s defense set the tone early on as Delhi controlled possession but was unable to create attacking runs.
Then in the 13th minute, RC struck. Kyle Van Vuren knocked down a corner-kick cross with his head, setting up Jon Vander Molen’s point-blank goal.
Ripon Christian was not satisfied with the one-goal margin at halftime.
“We figured we needed another goal,” Terpsma said. “We weren’t planning on a shutout.”
They got one anyway, as keeper Brayden Van Vuren kept the sheet clean with nine saves.
Paul Cho helped set up the insurance goal in the 54th minute. His initial 1-on-1 attempt was deflected away by the Delhi goalie, but Danny Vander Molen was there for the second-shot opportunity. A Delhi defender was in position to stuff Vander Molen’s shot, but gathered it back up and fired it into the left corner of the net.
The Hawks, who soundly beat RC 6-0 in their last meeting, tried desperately to get back into the contest with harmless shots from distance. Dan Choi and Kyle Colyn had key headers while defending corner kicks during the final minutes.
“At that point the guys knew they had the game in their hands if they kept fighting for it,” Terpsma said. “We knew Delhi could catch up with that much time left if they had the opportunity, so we worked to take that opportunity away.”