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WATER POLO: Third time the charm for Indians, who upset Sonora in SJS semis
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Ben Rodgers defends the Ripon goal as Sonora’s Birkwhistle winds up to take the shot. - photo by GARY JENSEN/

LODI — After being outscored by a total of 25-11 in two contests by second-seeded Sonora earlier this season, No. 3 Ripon never trailed Wednesday and downed the Wildcats 17-14 in Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal action at Tokay High School.

“I have nine freshmen on the team with five starting,” Indians coach Christian Britton said. “We are a young team but I knew we were going to get better all year long.

“I never thought we didn’t have a chance to win, I just knew we had not given Sonora our best games and the times we had played them their seasoned varsity guys capitalized on my young guys’ mistakes. So I knew if we kept competing, we were going to give them a game no matter what.”

Ripon will have one more chance to compete on Saturday when the Indians take on top-seeded Dixon in the section finals Saturday morning at the Roseville Aquatic Complex at 11:30.

A game that was close throughout had an ending that not many people have seen. With Ripon (14-7) leading16-13, 48 seconds showing on the game clock and momentum squarely on its side, the game was stopped and a long conference ensued at the scorer’s table. When the dust settled, 2:08 was suddenly left in the game due to correctable error.  

Apparently, earlier in the fourth period a player for Sonora was disqualified in error and the clock was reversed to the last time stoppage. A minute later Jude Catrone scored for the Wildcats to make the score 16-14 and momentum had definitely changed sides.

With 26 seconds left in the game Brody Biederman took a pass from Ben Svoboda and slammed the ball in the net for the Indians and a 17-14 lead, taking the wind out of the Wildcats’ sails.

“I was frustrated when that time went back on,” Britton said. “I had never seen that before, but at the end of the day the refs and the table were going to make a decision and I was only going to have so much input.

“So I told my guys that if this was going to happen we were going to have to deal with the adversity.”

McKeane Beier led Ripon with five goals, five steals and an assist.

“Getting the steals and the goals is all about putting in the effort and working as a family,” Beier said.

Benjamin Svoboda chipped in four goals, four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

“I knew I had the advantage early on so I knew I could score the goals then,” said Svoboda who had three goals and an assist in the first quarter. “Then they put bigger guys on me so I was able to give other players more opportunities.”

Ben Rodgers was busy in the net for the Indians, notching 10 of his 15 saves in the second half.

“This was fantastic,” Rodgers said. “The first couple of times we played them we did not play our best polo and it’s really sweet because this is a team we always lost to no matter what and we just beat them.

“That’s all that matters.”