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Ripon handles Dixon in semifinals
Reigning D-III champ to face top-seeded Sonora for SJS title
Dixon-Ripon boys water polo
Ripon’s Ryan Bell (6) fires a shot at Dixon goalie Diego Munoz (1) in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal Wednesday at Ervin Zador Aquatic Center. GARY JENSEN/

Ripon will finally get a chance to face off with Sonora.

The two will tangle for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship on Saturday after handily taking care of their semifinal opponents Wednesday.

In a rematch of the 2021 final, second-seeded Ripon (15-10) decimated No. 3 Dixon 17-3 at Ervin Zador Aquatic Center. The reigning champion Indians held on for an 8-7 victory the last time they played the Rams (15-9), but the reunion was quickly a rout.

“First time in a while that I’ve seen them come out with that intensity and play to their level,” Ripon coach Christian Britton said. “For a young group, I thought they showed a lot of maturity in terms of how they handled playoff water polo today.”

Meanwhile, No. 1 Sonora (18-7) sank Beyer 19-4 in the other semifinal, two days after thumping Los Banos in a 31-5 landslide in the opening round.

“We’ve been kind of on a collision course the entire year,” Britton said. “We’ve been on opposite sides of the bracket (in tournaments) and we just never managed to match up. Very similar style of game, they’ve got pretty good experience and a good group of boys.

“We kind of penciled this in back in August who we’d see in the finals assuming we’d make it — it was always Sonora. Truly don’t have much of a scouting report on them, so we’ll have to try to figure it out as we go. I’m super excited for it.”

Ripon shot out to a 5-0 lead, forcing the Rams to call an early timeout. The Indians racked up eight steals in the first period and totaled 26, while goalkeeper Benny Rogers backed the defense with eight saves.

“My defense was running amazing,” Rogers said. “They funneled the ball right to me or just stole the ball. There were a lot of (possessions) where I didn’t get to touch it. We have a seven-man defense, and it was a very fun game to play.”

McKeane Beier, Ryan Bell and Ben Svoboda each netted five goals. Beier, who started at center, scored three of his in the first quarter, also finishing with eight steals and an assist. Bell added four steals and an assist, while Svoboda had six steals and three assists.

Brody Biedermann (goal, four assists, steal), Owen Curtiss (three steals, three assists) and Teo West (goal, two steals, two assists) were other key contributors for the Indians. Their lead reached double digits at 12-2 with 3:33.60 left in the third quarter when Curtiss set up Bell for a point-blank attempt with a nifty touch pass.

Sean Ward accounted for all three of Dixon’s goals, scoring the first with 31 seconds remaining in the first quarter to close the Rams in, 5-1. Dixon was held to 14 shots, eight of them attempted by Ward.

Beier is proud to compete for another Section title. He’s one of eight sophomores on a 10-man team without a senior. Ripon and Sonora play Saturday starting at 10 a.m. at Roseville Aquatic Center.

“Our first year, I thought it may have been a (fluke), and now this really shows that we belong here in the finals,” Beier said.