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Ripon secures share of TVL title
Ripon forward David Alvarez traps it with his chest in front of Hilmar defender Justin Granados. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

RIPON — From both exhaustion and frustration, Ripon striker David Alvarez dropped to a crouch at midfield with both hands wrapped around his forehead.

Hilmar players celebrated around him, elated about Wednesday’s 2-2 stalemate that had no bearing on the Yellowjackets’ third-place standing in the Trans-Valley League.

But for Ripon it was left hook to the liver. With a chance to capture the school’s first-ever TVL championship outright in the regular-season finale, the Indians will instead have to share it with defending titlist Riverbank, which throttled winless Modesto Christian 8-0 on Wednesday.

Still, history was made, and that banner in the North Gym will no longer hang as a blank reminder that the boys soccer program, established in 1997, has never won a league championship.

“We should be happy,” said Alvarez, who accounted for both of Ripon’s goals. “We made history, but we should have won this. “They’re a great team. They fought for all 80 minutes and gave us a battle, but we had them.”

Ripon (9-0-3 TVL, 16-5-3 overall) was about 8 minutes away from winning, but Hilmar’s ace scorer Osiris Guerrero poked in the equalizer on a breakaway set up by Gabriel Teixeira’s long ball out of the defensive third.

“Good pass, but kinda lucky,” Guerrero said of his team-leading 29th goal. “I had to be there on time, the goalie came out and I pushed it a little with my right (foot).”

Both teams can consider themselves fortunate to come away with the draw with golden opportunities missed on both ends. But the source of Ripon’s frustration is its absolute dominance in the first half when the Indians held a 14-5 shot advantage. It is, of course, about the shots you make in this sport.

Despite playing on their heels for much of the opening half, the Yellowjackets (7-3-2, 10-10-2) struck first in the 32nd minute with Cesar Aguilar’s header off Adrian Yepez’s corner kick.

After missing on his first six chances, Alvarez finally made good with a nifty knee-high drive on a direct kick with roughly five minutes remaining in the first half. He converted again on his next attempt five minutes into the second half, with Victor de la O stealing the ball away from a defender near the center stripe and sending a nice through ball to Alvarez.

 “The inability to finish today I think is the most frustrating thing,” Ripon coach Jamie DeBruyn said. “Their No. 11 (Guerrero) is probably the best forward other than (Marcus Montano) from Manteca (in a nonleague game) that we’ve seen all year.

“I’ll gladly give them two goals, but that could have been a 6-2 win for us. We created our opportunities and played good defense in the first half.”

Guerrero was neutralized by Ripon’s Ross Woods for the first 40 minutes, but the talented forward wasn’t leashed for long. Like Alvarez for Ripon in the first half, Guerrero had shots hit the posts, blow several feet wide or stopped by the keeper in the second.

Hilmar played better in the second half, though it was outshot 22-12 overall.

Both keepers came up big in the final minutes to preserve the tie. Ripon’s Jonathan Soto (6 saves) blocked Justin Granados’ 1-on-1 look in the 75th minute. Then in the 78th, Alvarez took Ripon’s final try, but his point-blank shot was deflected by Hilmar goalie Cirilo Guillen (6 saves).

“The ball wouldn’t go in,” Alvarez said. “That was my fault. To be honest I never missed so many shots in a game, and that’s why I’m a little hard on myself right now. So much is expected of me, but I can’t do it all.”

And Ripon can’t have the title all to itself. The Indians twice tied Riverbank, and Hilmar has a draw against both.

“I guess when all is said in done, Riverbank has done what we’ve done to a T,” DeBruyn said. “It’s disappointing that it’s not ours solely, but I’ll take it.”