MARIPOSA — At 6-foot-5 with a super-stretch wingspan, Lukas Vermeulen cuts an imposing figure in the goal.
The Ripon Christian junior has used that considerable height to his advantage, too, giving up no more than one goal nine times with five shutouts.
On Thursday, Vermeulen wasn’t perfect in a 3-1 victory at Mariposa High— but he was close. Vermeulen had five saves and covered nearly every angle, as the defense forced the Grizzlies into low-percentage, long-range shots.
With the win, Ripon Christian (10-4 overall) remained on the heels of Southern League leader Delhi (4-0) and in a three-way tie for second with Gustine and Orestimba at 3-1.
“Our defense stood out today,” Ripon Christian coach Keith Terpsma said. “Lukas had a great game, and our defense covered beautifully for each other.”
Mariposa wasn’t nearly as sharp in the defensive third.
The Knights grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute when the Mariposa goalie misjudged Josh Donoho’s shot and watched it bounce over his head and into the cage.
Travis Vander Molen made it 2-0 in the 34th minute. The junior striker raced onto a through ball and fired a hard shot that caromed off the goalie. Vander Molen stayed with the play, though, and slotted home the rebound for his 12th goal in 14 games.
Terpsma couldn’t asked for a better start, especially on the road against a physical opponent.
“You never know how the game’s going to go up in Mariposa,” he said. “Those two goals set us up nicely for the second half.
Tristan Vos closed the scoring for the Knights in the 63rd minute, beating the goalie with an arcing shot to the far post. Jake Van Vuren notched the assist.
“Tristan’s goal was a beauty,” Terpsma said. “We knew, though, that Mariposa wouldn’t go away.”
The Grizzlies (2-2) tallied their only goal in the 72nd minute.
Thomas Sidtikun is getting hot at just the right time for the Indians.
After a slow start to the season, Sidtikun, Ripon’s top returning scorer, notched two goals for the second consecutive game.
These two came in a flash, too.
Sidtikun breached Argonaut’s flat back line for goals in the 58th and 61st minute, giving the Indians a 2-0 advantage. Fedarico Entrada set up both goals with well-timed through balls.
“We knew we needed him to finish this year,” Ripon coach Jaime DeBruyn said of Sidtikun, who has five goals in eight games after scoring a team-high 15 last fall.
“He was the only one coming back that put up big numbers for us. He had a slow start, but two goals against Linden and two goals today, I’m liking more and more what I see.”
Johnathan Soto had six saves for Ripon (6-6-1), which opens Trans-Valley League play on Tuesday with a home match against Hilmar.