RIPON — The Ripon boys water polo team had shredded Valley Oak League competition leading up to Wednesday’s Valley Oak League finale against Sonora, winning each contest by no less than seven goals.
The Wildcats, needing a win to secure the runner-up spot and a more favorable playoff seed, pushed the three-time defending league champion but came up short, 15-13. Daniel Esenwein scored the final two goals for Ripon (8-0 VOL, 24-3 overall), the latter of which was netted with 34.23 seconds remaining.
“Sonora just really wanted this win and to take us down on our senior night, and we weren’t ready for that,” said Zach Scudder, one of three Ripon seniors honored Wednesday. “We didn’t really kick into gear until the third quarter but it was still a close one.”
Sonora (5-3, 13-11) never led but managed to stay within three goals of the Indians. It was far more competitive than their first two meetings, 17-10 and 15-7 victories for Ripon. Their most recent showdown came in the prestigious DeLong Tournament last Friday.
Scudder fired three of his four goals in the second quarter Wednesday, helping Ripon stake an 8-7 lead by the midway point. He later came up with three steals in the final period to keep Sonora at bay.
Kole Gonzales added four goals and three assists. Freshman Ty Wells also had four goals, including one with less than a second left in the third quarter to push Ripon ahead 11-10.
The Indians had chances to race away with it in the fourth, when they attempted 11 shots and nine of them on goal. Sonora keeper Robert Van Noord recorded five of his 11 saves in the frame. Riley Richey, Jonathan Gillespie and Seth Farwell scored three goals each for the Wildcats.
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs begin Nov. 6 at Roseville’s Woodcreek High. Ripon goes in as one of the favorites after knocking off 10-time SJS champion Rio Americano 12-11 in the fifth-place match of the DeLong Tournament.
“With us having a small team and one sub, to win a third straight (VOL) title is awesome,” Scudder said. “But we’re looking to win it all at sections this year. If we see Rio again it should be another very good game.”
Sonora’s girls (4-4, 15-11) held off a late charge from Ripon 12-11 behind Josephine Personius’ six goals. Andria Martin and Morgan Sheaffer each scored three for the Indians.