The Ripon Christian boys soccer team rolled to Southern League and Sac-Joaquin Section championships, chasing only history throughout its magical run.
Still, it wasn’t enough to earn the respect of its closest contemporaries.
The Knights (12-1-1) were awarded a paltry two first-team selections in a vote by league coaches following a dominating run through the Southern League. Ripon Christian won 12 of its 14 league matches and finished four games clear of runner-up Delhi (8-3-3) in the win column.
By comparison, Delhi received four first-team selections. Fifth-place Mariposa – a non-playoff team that Ripon Christian swept by a cumulative score of 5-1 – was awarded three first-team selections.
Ripon Christian coach Keith Terpsma was mystified by the voting.
“Usually, I save the big reveal of all-league for the end-of-season awards, but I had to talk to the guys right away to get it off my chest,” said Terpsma, the SL’s Coach of the Year. “I said to the coaches of our league and my players that I was disappointed that we didn’t get the recognition that I felt we deserved. I was very disappointed, straight out. I don’t understand how teams that don’t make the playoffs get more (all-league) players than a championship team.
“As we’ve been on the rise we still haven’t got the individual recognition of players we’ve deserved. It’s up to the room of coaches and I worked my hardest to get the guys I wanted.”
The Knights’ two picks were worthy, to say the least.
Kyle Colyn was a four-year starter for the Knights and an anchor along a back line that allowed just 15 goals in league. At 6 feet, 3 inches, Colyn was tall enough and strong enough to battle for balls in the air, yet skilled enough to trigger the attack.
Terpsma gave Colyn the freedom to move forward and his faith in the senior was rewarded during a 5-1 victory over Forest Lake Christian in the Division VII semifinal. Colyn had a goal and an assist early in the match as the Knights erased a one-goal deficit.
Colyn closed his prep career with nine goals and five assists.
Travis Vander Molen was the Knights’ other first-team selection and one of the area’s most potent scorers. He finished his junior campaign with a team-high 27 goals, including a memorable five-goal flurry in the first two rounds of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Vander Molen played the striker position like a power forward, utilizing his brute strength and size to punish defenses on crosses.
He paired nicely with cousin Danny Vander Molen, who was named an an honorable mention. Danny Vander Molen had 12 goals and a team-high 17 assists. He was third on the team in points per game (2.0), trailing Travis Vander Molen and senior Andrew Manes (19 goals).
Four-year defender Coleton Hilarides was also an honorable mention.
“Both of those guys could have been on the first team,” said Terpsma, who broke the news to his team before the start of the section playoffs.
To some degree, he believes the news galvanized his senior-laden squad for the postseason tournament. Ripon Christian ran roughshod through its three opponents, outscoring Victory Christian, Forest Lake Christian and Sacramento Day 12-1.
“I wouldn’t doubt that some of those guys wanted to make a point,” Terpsma added. “That’s one of the things we talked about, ‘Let’s prove it with our game.’ Regardless of the league awards they got or didn’t get, they were motivated to keep going after that.”
Le Grand playmaker Sergio Garcia was named league MVP.
Terpsma thanked his team for the Coach of the Year award. Ripon Christian won a total of 22 games, easily the most in the new millennium, en route to the program’s first section title in 20 years.
“As Coach of the Year, I’m proud not of myself but of the accomplishments we’ve made as a team and the discipline we’ve had that has brought us to this point,” he said. “Coach of the Year is a recognition of the entire team. I’ve devoted quite a bit to this program to build it up, but it’s about the group of guys and the chemistry that has brought us together.”