RIPON – Ripon needed either a tie or win in order to stay atop the Trans Valley League standings and in the hunt for the school’s first-ever boys soccer title Wednesday.
The Indians’ first-place position was in jeopardy as they were facing a two-goal deficit at halftime against Riverbank.
Ripon dug down, however, and came back against the two-time defending TVL champion Bruins, who gave up their two-goal cushion at Stouffer Field and allowed Ripon to escape with a 2-2 draw.
The Indians (8-0-2 TVL, 15-5-2 overall) are in sole possession of first place with two games left, as Riverbank (7-0-3, 9-5-4) sits in second followed by Hilmar.
“Ripon came out aggressive and we tried to match their aggressiveness,” Riverbank head coach Martin Gonzales said. “We had them down 2-0, but now we need Hilmar to do something (next week).”
Ripon has Orestimba (3-6-1, 6-9-1) Monday, followed by third-place Hilmar Wednesday to close out the regular season. Anything less than a pair wins for Ripon could mean Riverbank sneaks into position to perhaps win a third consecutive TVL championship – or at least a share.
“(Orestimba and Hilmar) are not slouches,” Ripon head coach Jamie DeBruyn said. “They have some good players, so we’re going to have to come ready to play.
“(This tie) saved us. It’s our own destiny to control. It’s for us to win right now and for us to lose, and we’ll prepare for it that way. I think the second half today showed how bad we really wanted it.”
Ripon came out with relentlessness in the second half.
Despite giving up the first two goals against the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V runner-up, Ripon didn’t hang its head.
The Indians outshot the Bruins 10-5 in the final 40 minutes, 18-13 overall. Down 2-0 at the midpoint, Ripon came out and made some adjustments – and they worked.
Coach DeBruyn moved senior David Alvarez to the Ripon frontline and moved Victor de la O to the defensive midfield.
Alvarez came up clutch and scored the game-tying goal in the 62nd minute off his own forced turnover. Alvarez poked the ball away from the Riverbank ball handler and created a one-on-one scoring opportunity against Riverbank goalie Robert Serrato (10 saves).
“Coach usually just puts me anywhere he needs me,” Alvarez said. “The (win) was huge for our program. We needed that goal. We needed a tie or a win. It was intense.
“We stepped it up, got the tie and hung in there. First half didn’t look so good, but second half we did a lot better.”
Alvarez stuck the goal in the far-right corner, unassisted.
Ripon’s first goal in the second half came in minute No. 47.
Thomas Sidtikum found the back of the net on an assist from Alex Aguilar. Sidtikum beat Serrato to the ball and put his foot on it, perfectly placing it over the head of the 6-foot goalkeeper.
“We can still finish in first, it’s not over,” Gonzales said. “(Ripon) knows it. They may be taking pictures and doing their thing over there, but they still have to beat Hilmar.”
Riverbank, who lost in the last year’s section final against Capital Christian Sacramento, scored its first goal in the 23rd minute.
Riverbank junior Oscar Jiminez beat Ripon goalie Jonathan Soto (16 saves) to the far-left corner to make it 1-0. During stoppage time before the half, junior Eduardo Estrada made it a 2-0 ball game in favor of the Bruins.
Ripon’s Flavio Valadao had three shots on goal and played a solid game at forward, as did standout Mauricio Aguirre, who was held scoreless on the right wing.
Alvarez had a shot on goal during the 73rd minute that could have won it, but Serrato came up with one of his clutch saves to preserve the tie.
Ripon’s Brock Herrin had a header and Sidtikum followed on a put-back in the 77th minute as well.