Ripon Christian secured the outright claim to the Southern League championship with Tuesday’s 2-0 victory at Denair.
The Knights (11-1-1, 18-4-1) hadn’t won a title since 1996 in the Trans-Valley League. They guaranteed themselves at least a share by beating Orestimba 5-2 last Thursday.
Coach Keith Terpsma, however, would like to see a stronger effort out of his squad in Thursday’s regular-season finale against visiting Gustine (6-3-3, 9-8-3), a club that is still in the hunt for one of the other two Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths.
“Denair came out on fire today,” Terpsma said. “They have improved tremendously during the season.
“We need to step up our level of play, though, if we want to win a section championship. We keep working to improve our game. We’re excited for Gustine on Thursday and then playoffs next week.”
Denair (1-12, 5-14) set the pace in the early going and tested Ripon Christian keeper Lukas Vermeulen and the defense. Near the midway point of the opening half, Andrew Manes broke the scoreless tie with a header. Less than a minute later, Travis Vander Molen dished a through ball to cousin Danny Vander Molen to set up another goal.
Ripon Christian’s final tune-up for the postseason starts at 4 p.m. Thursday. The playoffs begin Nov. 6.