By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
DOUBLE TAKE: Ripon girls win 1st Section title on Sickler-Lopez’s golden goal
Boys thrash Sonora for 2nd straight
Ripon water polo
Players and coaches from the Ripon boys and girls water polo teams get together for photos after both captured Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championships this past Saturday in Roseville, - photo by Contributed

One game was unexpectedly lopsided, while the other was as tightly-contested as anticipated.

And Ripon’s water polo teams returned home with two new Sac-Joaquin Section banners on Saturday.

Both competed in the Division III final for a second straight year. The girls team claimed its first-ever title with a 9-8 sudden-death overtime victory over Christian Brothers, and the boys repeated as champion after thumping Sonora 16-4 at Roseville Aquatic Center.

Ripon water polo
Mia Sickler-Lopez winds up for a shot during Ripon’s thrilling overtime win over Christian Brothers. - photo by Contributed
They’re now in the California Interscholastic Federation Division III NorCal Regionals, which starts today.

“What an amazing accomplishment for these girls,” Ripon coach Erik Zador said. “They will forever be the first Ripon High girls water polo team to bring home a blue banner. I am very proud of all their hard work and dedication they put in this season. This will go down as one of the most exciting games I have ever coached.”

Zador urged his team to ramp up the defensive effort from the outset of the postseason, and it served the second-seeded Indians (13-10) well the physical championship round with No. 1 Christian Brothers (17-14).

In the end, it was Mia Sickler-Lopez who provided the golden goal after the score remained tied through two overtime periods. She handled a pass from left wing Madeline Curtiss, turned and froze Falcons goalkeeper Logan Tiska with a feint before blowing it past her for the game-winner with 1:04 remaining.

It was the explanation point to Sickler-Lopez’s sterling performance. She netted the first of her game-high seven goals with backhand shot and was a defensive anchor with eight steals.

Ripon goalie Tiffani Hunter added 13 saves, two steals and an assist that set up Crystallyn Tran’s clutch transition goal with six seconds left in the second overtime, forcing the sudden-death stanza. Tran also had three assists, two steals and a block. Hailey Knief contributed a goal, an assist and three steals before fouling out in the third overtime.

The Indians never trailed in regulation, taking two-goal leads on five occasions. Christian Brothers then rallied for four unanswered goals. Tiska (15 saves, five steals) buried a buzzer-beating bomb at the end of the first overtime to push the Falcons ahead, 8-6.    

“That game gave me about seven heart attacks, but it was super entertaining for the parents, and it just made it so much more special,” Zador said.

The Division III boys final wasn’t quite so exciting, at least not for top-seeded Sonora (18-8). No. 2 Ripon (16-10) established

Ripon water polo
Ripon’s Ben Svoboda explodes out of the water to fire a shot against Sonora. - photo by Contributed
its dominance from the start, leading 8-1 at halftime. McKeane Beier’s breakaway goal stretched the margin to double digits at 11-1 midway through the third quarter. The lead ballooned to 15-2 with 3:47 left when Ben Svoboda intercepted a pass and finished with the transition goal.

Svoboda paced the Indians with seven goals and two steals. Goalie Benny Rogers amassed 13 saves, three assists and three steals.

Beier chipped in three goals, three assists and two steals. Owen Curtiss added two goals and two steals. Brody Biedermann had two goals and two assists. Ryan Bell contributed a goal, assist, three blocks and three steals. Teo West collected a goal, five assists and four steals.

“I’m so proud of these boys and their commitment to the team,” Ripon coach Christian Britton said. “It has not been an easy season for them, but they continued to work and trust the process.

“It was so fun for me to watch their dedication be rewarded. It was truly an amazing day for Ripon High water polo, and I’m thankful I got a chance to be a part of it.”

His Indians are seeded sixth for NorCals and will take on No. 3 Clovis West (15-16) at Clovis North tonight starting at 6:30. The Golden Eagles are the Central Section Division II champions.

Ripon’s girls, also a 6 seed, travel to Walnut Creek to face North Coast Section Division II titlist Northgate (20-7).