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Lowell of SF takes NorCal Division IV title
RIPsoccer right
Ripons Kierra Chavez heads the ball over Lowell of San Franciscos Sabrina Lem. - photo by GARY JENSEN/

RIPON – With penalty kicks looming on the horizon, Lowell of San Francisco’s Sarah Ginsburg covered a loose ball in front of the Ripon net and powered it in for a golden goal to give the Cardinals a thrilling 2-1 win for the CIF NorCal Division IV Regional Girls Soccer Championship on Saturday at Stouffer Field. 

Unlike Sac Joaquin Section regular-season and playoff games that in case of a tie employ two 10-minute overtime periods that will be followed by penalty kicks if needed to decide a victor, state playoff games employ the golden-goal method where there is one sudden death 15-minute period followed by penalty kicks, if needed.

Ginsburg got both goals for No. 4 Lowell (19-3). The first came on a breakaway with 10 minutes left in regulation for a 1-0 lead. The game-winner came on a direct kick by Fiona Plunkett from the middle of the field just outside the 18. Plunkett’s shot was deflected by Indians goalie Ashley Pugh off the crossbar for Ginsburg to find and end Ripon’s season. 

This was the second road trip of the week for the Cardinals who went to Redding on Thursday to defeat top-seeded University Prep 2-1. The Indians (18-5-2) were seeded third. 

“This experience of having played here and up in Redding has been our first soccer experience in the valley,” Lowell coach Gene Vrana said. “We encountered extraordinary soccer, strong soccer, great officiating and great fans. 

“So I am just thrilled. Not just at the outcome, but the experience for our kids to come in here and encounter this squad. Tonight, Ripon was as organized and as disciplined – especially in their attack – as anyone we have played.”

Ripon got on the board in the 77th minute following a handball called on the second of back-to-back corner kicks by Ariana Scholten, giving Cindy Alvarez a penalty kick. Alvarez shot the ball past the diving Cardinals goalie to knot the score at 1-1.  

“I wasn’t really nervous when I was going to kick the PK,” Alvarez said. “I knew there was just a couple of minutes left in the game. 

“Before I grabbed the ball I knew what corner I was going to go to and it went in. I tried to fake her, but she ended up diving the right way.”  

Pugh tallied seven saves.

“I was nervous in the beginning,” Pugh said. “And then I got used to it. I tried to pretend like it was every other game and I tried my best.

“I am so proud of the team. We worked so hard for this and what happened, happened, but we got so far, farther than any other girls soccer team around here.  

This was the first season for NorCal soccer playoffs and within the next few years the NorCal champion will face its counterpart from Southern California to determine a state champion. 

“I think we played the best other team in Northern California and this is what happened,” Indians coach Nichole Meyer said. “Ashley Pugh did a fantastic job in the net. She is a freshman and we are excited to have her for the next three years.”

“The Ripon community has been 100-percent supportive since the first regional playoff game and between social media posts and coming out to the fields Ripon rallied together. We couldn’t have been happier to host.”