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Ripon Christian splits crown
SOCCER - RCvsMARIP PIC1 for 5-1-14
Ripon Christians Cynthia Van Vliet gains possession of the ball and scored a goal during the Knights 3-1 victory over Mariposa on Wednesday, a win that provided them a share of the Southern League title with the Grizzlies. - photo by JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS/ The Bulletin

RIPON – Cynthia Van Vliet had a fair share of opportunities to put the ball in the net during Wednesday’s Southern League finale against first-place Mariposa.

The Ripon Christian sophomore had multiple runs up the right wing, but she couldn’t get one to fall until the 77th minute.

Van Vliet’s unassisted goal from point-blank range not only sealed the 3-1 victory for her ball club, but it also helped lift the Knights to a share of the Southern League title that they split with Mariposa (13-1 SL, 15-2-1 overall).

“(Van Vliet) has had trouble finishing, but that goal in that moment when we really needed it was huge,” Ripon Christian head coach Kevin Tameling said. “That’s just her tenacity coming through.”

Van Vliet, along with forward Abby Buitrago, tallied all three goals during a critical win that tied a Ripon Christian (13-1, 18-2-1) school record for most wins in a season that was set last year.

The Knights have a shot to break that record when they open up the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII playoffs a week from today.

“Last year was our first playoff win in school history and we made it to the section final,” Tameling said. “This year, we want to improve on that. We have to win three games and that’s definitely where we’re headed.”

Mariposa will definitely be headed to the postseason too but will compete against the Division VI tournament. This contest was a matchup featuring two playoff squads, which was also the Knights’ senior day. It was the team’s leading scorer, Buitrago, who made the impact offensively.

Both of Buitrago’s goals were assisted by junior defender Ellen Blankers. Blankers sent the first pass up the field for the fast-footed freshman, who netted the game’s first goal in the 23rd minute. Just three minutes before halftime, Buitrago made it 2-0 off another assist from Blankers.

“We needed to win,” Tameling added. “We needed to come out here with a win. Our defense played really well. Abby has done a great job all year, but our defense really set the tone early in the game.”

Jessica Van Vliet, Blankers and senior Teagan Manus were solid on the backline for Ripon Christian, which gave up its only goal midway into the second half that made it 2-1.

Mariposa pulled within a goal after firing a shot past the Knights’ junior keeper Bryanna Heida (seven saves) in the 58th minute.

“We made it 2-1 and it was pretty exciting,” Mariposa head coach Adam Finney said. “If one of those goals goes in and we tie, we win (the title) outright. But Ripon Christian had a good game plan and they executed well in the heat.”

Despite 90-degree temperatures and both teams suffering from heat exhaustion, Ripon Christian proved to be the better conditioned ball club.

“They just outran us a little bit at the end,” Finney concluded.

With Mariposa threatening to tie for almost 20 minutes, Cynthia Van Vliet crushed the Grizzlies’ hopes at winning sole possession of the title right before stoppage time as she muscled her way to the cage for the final score.

“That’s what she’s got going for her, she just keeps going and doesn’t stop,” Tameling said of Van Vliet. “I know she’s really thankful she got that one.”

The last time these two teams met on March 28, Mariposa defeated the Knights 3-2 in Mariposa. It was also Ripon Christian’s fourth game in five days.

Trans-Valley League

Ripon 5, Hilmar 2

With their postseason spot already secured, the Indians (7-1-4 TVL, 10-3-5 overall) looked to win one for the seniors on what will likely be their final game at Stouffer Field.

Mission accomplished.

Converted defender Zaire Davis scored a hat trick, while seniors Morgan Carrico and Jessica Carmona added one goal apiece. Brooklyn Joachim, Haley Simmons, Maci Christian and Carrico each had an assist. Goalie Sam Brooks came up with five saves.

Ripon took control early by firing three goals inside the first 20 minutes.

“It was the last night for the seniors at home and we wanted to go into the playoffs on a winning note, so it was nice to be able to accomplish that,” Ripon coach Jamie DeBruyn said. “We didn’t play all that well at (Hilmar’s) place so I didn’t know what to expect. We were able to get out and score early and allow all of our seniors to get a lot of playing time.”