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Indians in range of playoff berth with big victory
Ripon High midfielder Arik Anaya tries to avoid contact from hard-charging Hughson defender Anthony Lopez in Tuesdays Trans-Valley League match at Ripon Elementary. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

RIPON — Hughson moved the ball at will, using its possession skills and an offensive posture to keep Ripon High’s boys soccer team on its heels in their big Trans-Valley League confrontation at Ripon Elementary Tuesday.

All that passing did the Huskies no good, and it was also to their detriment.

Ripon scored all of its goals on pure hustle alone, and the defense warded off a late salvo of Hughson shots to prevail 3-0 and remain in the hunt for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V playoff spot.

The Indians (5-4, 7-13 overall) are undefeated in three second-half league matches and have beaten two top-three squads in the process. The win inches them closer to Hughson (5-2-2, 6-8-3), which holds a one-point lead over Ripon for the third and final playoff berth.

Hughson previously defeated Ripon, 4-1. The Indians also avenged an earlier loss to second-place Hilmar on Oct. 6 with a 2-1 victory. Riverbank played Hilmar Tuesday and if victorious would clinch its third TVL title in four years.

“This was real big for us,” said senior forward Shae Biggs. “It puts us that much closer to the playoffs, but we still have to pass Hughson. We’re probably going to have to win out.”

It was Biggs who sparked Ripon’s two-goal flurry late in the second half. By that point, the Indians had found gaping holes in Hughson’s defense on counterattacking runs.

In the 37th minute, Biggs was able to get between a negative pass intended for Hughson goalie Jesus Ramos, and he chipped in the open-net attempt before defender Raymundo Villalobos could recover.

“I saw that they were getting a little lazy with their passes,” Biggs said. “He passed it back to the goalie and he wasn’t really going for the ball.”

Two minutes later, Sam Bennet doubled the lead in similar fashion. He intercepted a weakly-touched pass near the right corner and charged into the penalty box uncontested for an easy one-on-one goal.

Arik Anaya put it out of reach in the 62nd minute. After winning the ball in Ripon’s defensive third, he bursted up the right sideline, blew by two Hughson defenders and hammered it home from the 18-yard line.

“They pushed their wing defenders to the front and that opened them up for a lot of counters,” Ripon coach Jamie DeBruyn said. “Once the front line settled down started to make the right runs and and got their timing down we were able to pressure them.

“Their back line is a little sketchy once pressure is put on them and we knew that from the last time we played them.”

Ripon’s defense and goalkeeper Henk Gaalswyk did well to post their fifth shutout of the season.

Hughson couldn’t get a good shot on frame in the first half, but in the second half it had several shots deflected away by defenders and Gaalswyk, who recorded eight of his nine saves over the final 40-minute stanza.

Hughson fired 14 of its 19 shots in the second half, and Ripon finished with 12 total.

The Ripon keeper denied Hughson standout Cristian Sanchez two great scoring opportunities in particular. One was a curling free kick from 30 yards out in which Gaalswyk fingertipped it over the crossbar. On the other, Sanchez had a look from point-blank range but had it deflected away by the diving Gaalswyk.

“He’s definitely a good, tall guy to have there,” said senior defender Cesar Nuno.

Nuno (ankle) and Derek Price (quadriceps) have solidified Ripon’s back line after overcoming early-season injuries. That has allowed sophomore Ian McDonald and junior Aaron Aguilar to play on the wings.

“It’s just chemistry and coaching,” Nuno said of the improved defensive play. “It took us a while to get to know each other and figure out how to play the game together.”

Southern League

Denair 2, Ripon Christian 0

Juan Dela Cruz broke the scoreless tie in the 27th minute for Denair (6-4-1, 9-8-2), and Quentin Allen iced it with a second-half goal.

Jon Vander Molen collected 15 saves at goal for Ripon Christian (2-9-1, 6-12-1).