RIPON — The Ripon High boys water polo team’s streak of Valley Oak League victories came to an end Thursday at Ervin Zador Aquatic Center.
Sonora conquered the rebuilding Indians 13-8 in a rematch of the 2015 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship that was dominated by Ripon. The Wildcats turned the tables Thursday, firing four unanswered goals in the third period to gain separation.
Ripon had won 19 straight VOL games. The last loss was to none other than these Wildcats (2-0, 12-5 overall) back on Oct. 17, 2013.
The Sonora girls also won Thursday 13-6 despite a six-goal effort from Ripon’s Andria Martin.
“Overall, we were pretty outmatched,” Ripon boys coach Erik Zador said. “I probably would not have bet on that game, but they fought all the way through and didn’t roll over. I’m happy with these guys.”
Ripon (3-1 VOL) proved at the start it could compete with the Wildcats but were often thwarted by 6-foot-4 goalkeeper Robert Van Noord, who racked up 15 saves. The Indians had a 32-24 shot advantage overall but had many point-blank looks blocked by Van Noord.
“He’s probably the best (goalie) in the league,” Ripon’s Noah Esenwein said of Van Noord. “We couldn’t put our shots away, and we let them take shots we shouldn’t have let them take. This could have easily been much closer.”
Ripon’s leading scorer for the season, Esenwein tied it at 1-1 early in the opening quarter but was shut out for the rest of the game. Ty Wells led the Indians with three goals, while Diego Moreno and Nick Gagnon added two each. Gagnon missed Ripon’s last two games with an elbow injury.
Moreno had one of the game’s most impressive goals, blowing a skip shot past Van Noord from the half-distance line early in the second quarter. Wells’ goal with 27.76 seconds left made it 5-5 and it remained tied by halftime.
Jonathan Gillespie and the Wildcats took control from there. Sonora’s top attacker poured in four of his game-high six goals in the third quarter. He also had three assists.
Wells and Gagnon tallied back-to-back goals to start scoring in the fourth quarter and draw Ripon to within two at 10-8, but Sonora rallied for three straight to end it. The Wildcats’ final two goals came within 16 seconds of each other in the final minute. Shortly after Trevor Mills (two goals) cashed in with 49.02 seconds remaining, Gillespie stole an errant pass and dished it to Caleb Farwell (four goals) for the backbreaker.
“They started pressing us a lot more,” Esenwein said. “Nobody has really pressed us (in league). We have a bunch of new players, and as a team we haven’t really learned how to deal with that. We’re definitely going to be practicing a lot more on pressure passing. The passes could have been way better. It’s something we can fix.”
Ripon’s girls (2-2) also struggled in the third quarter after a competitive first half. With Sonora ahead 5-3, Samantha Slater widened the Wildcats’ lead with four unanswered goals in the first 3 minutes of the second half, three of them scored in transition. The visitors outshot Ripon 17-5 over the final two periods.
Goalie Kyra Foley finished with five saves for the Indians.