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WATER POLO: Youth-laden Ripon wards off Los Banos in playoff opener
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Ripon's Donovan Armstrong takes a shot against Los Banos. - photo by Dave Campbell

The best days are yet to come is normally a consoling way to soften a season-ending loss. There is nothing normal about the Ripon boys water polo team this year.

The No. 3 Indians downed visiting and sixth-seeded Los Banos 16-12 Friday in opening-round action of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs at the Ervin Zador Aquatic Center, and they did so starting five freshmen with nine freshmen on the roster and just one senior.

This team is going to get nothing but better.

“We’re young,” Ripon Christian coach Christian Britton said. “I’ve got nine freshmen — today we had five freshman starting — and we have one senior and one sophomore.

“This was our first playoff game. We have been training hard but it was evident that the nerves were there a little bit but we got this one out of the way and hopefully we will be ready to go for the semi-finals.”

The Indians (13-7) never trailed, but they never could pull away from the Tigers (14-3). With 3:23 left in the game, Los Banos was on a 3-1 run to come within 15-12 and momentum was squarely on the Tigers’ side.

Lone Indians senior Donovan Armstrong saw to it that Los Banos would get no closer, nabbing two of his five steals in the next 90 seconds to help seal the win.

“They kept passing it under pressure and I was right there,” Armstrong said. “They didn’t really know where to pass it to and I was right there.

“I had my hand up and they passed it to the wrong dude.”

McKeane Beier also had five steals, and he led the Ripon offense with seven goals.

“It’s annoying when I don’t finish my shots,” Beier said. “We don’t have a lot of powerhouses in our league, so coming out here and winning as playoff game is great.

“I just love the game. It is fun to play.”

Indians goalie Ben Rodgers made eight saves and relished the high pressure of a playoff game.

“The pressure was fun,” Rodgers said. “We don’t get to play a lot of games like this. The pressure was really fun to play with.

“The coach was amping us up. It was intense, but that is how we love to play water polo.”

Ben Svoboda added five goals with four assists and six steals for the Indians. Brody Biederman tallied three goals and three assists and Ryan Bell dished out five assists.

William Hoyle had five goals for Los Banos with Josh Chedester and Mattie Spina adding two apiece.