RIPON — There is a confidence among those with the Ripon Christian boys soccer program that hasn’t existed in nearly a decade.
The Knights believe they have the talent and chemistry to build upon the breakthroughs of the 2012 season.
Ripon Christian returned to the Sac-Joaquin Section postseason after a nine-year absence. The Knights qualified as the Southern League’s third-place team, clinching a berth in the Division VII tournament.
That team was young and just coming into its own, said 12th-year coach Keith Terpsma.
“Thankfully, we had a young team. We had some very strong sophomores and juniors on the squad. This year, they’re seniors and juniors,” said Terpsma,” whose club went 13-5-4 and lost to Sacramento Country Day in the semifinal round.
“To stay safe with our goals, we’re looking at the playoffs again. Beyond that, we have some team goals that we set that are pretty high.”
How high is high?
Ripon Christian would like to break up the Big Three’s stronghold in the Southern League.
Delhi, Gustine and Le Grand have won the last five Southern League titles. Delhi is the defending champion, while Gustine (2010-11) and Le Grand (2008-09) each won back-to-back championships in a four-year span.
“I don’t want to leave any teams out, because Waterford beat us twice last year,” Terpsma said. “The guys still remember both of those games very well and would like a chance at them again.”
RC won’t have to wait long. The Southern League season begins Sept. 16 with a home match against those Wildcats.
“I know it’s going to be very deep, but I think my team is motivated and committed this year to working hard and playing out the strategies I’ve designed for them to hopefully win a lot of games,” Terpsma said.
The catalysts in Ripon Christian’s success will be its only seniors – midfielders Kyle Van Vuren (eight goals, team-high nine assists) and Max Koetsier (one goal, two assists).
Each has been named a team captain, and each brings a unique intangible to the game. Van Vuren is praised for his intelligence, while Koetsier’s endurance will give teams fits.
“My go-to guys are my only seniors,” Terpsma said. “I had a long talk with them about being appointed captains and what responsibility that brings. They’re ready to take it seriously and help develop this team.”
The Knights open the season on Saturday at the Husky Soccer Cup in Hughson. Ripon Christian will take on the tournament host in its opener and could play as many as four games Saturday.
“It’s going to be a test of our conditioning, but I’d like to use this tournament to look at other teams and see how my guys stack up against the other players we play against,” said Terpsma who has also scheduled non-conference games with Modesto Christian and crosstown rival Ripon.
“I’m looking to be successful this year based on team skill and chemistry.”
Ripon Christian returns juniors Danny Vander Molen (team-high 17 goals in 2012), Kyle Colyn (defender) and Coleton Hilarides (defender). Sophomore Lukas Vermeulen will likely start in goal; he was one of four players to log time between the pipes last fall.
The Knights replace Christian Manes and Jon Vander Molen with their namesakes – junior Andrew Manes (attacker) and sophomore Travis Vander Molen (midfield).
“Our original goal in 2012 was to compete and work toward the playoffs,” Terpsma said. “When we realized it was very possible that it could happen – that we could make the playoffs in 2012 – we adjusted our goals.
“This year, we know that we can definitely make the playoffs. So we look forward to the next step and that’s to go farther in league than we have in the past.”
To contact James Burns, e-mail email@example.com.