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Soccer Success - Bruins Finish Strong, Take TVL Title
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It didn't take long for the Ripon High boys soccer team to get Trans-Valley League-leading Riverbank's attention on Oct. 25 at Ripon Elementary.

The Indians - who needed to win their final two regular-season contests for a chance to gain a Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff berth - scored on their first possession and second shot in the opening minute.

The next 79 minutes belonged to Riverbank.

Led by freshman Quintero Rodrigo's two goals, the Bruins captured their third conference title in four years while eliminating Ripon from postseason contention with a 3-1 win.

Their title-clinching moment was delayed a week with runner-up Hilmar handing them their lone TVL loss 1-0 on Oct. 18.

"In that game against Hilmar we were getting a little too cocky, and we didn't start playing until they scored on us. But we washed that away with this one," Riverbank coach Martin Gonzales said just moments before getting doused with water by his players.

On the game's first scoring sequence, Ripon's Andre DeDonatis won the ball near the center line and beat two defenders before pushing it ahead to Jack Brierly.

Brierly juked a Riverbank defender to penetrate into the penalty box but had his 1-on-1 shot deflected by goalie Rafael Ramirez. Sam Bennet finished the play off the rebound.

"After that we didn't let them out of their half that much, probably for 60 to 70 percent of the game," Gonzales said.

Rodrigo poked in the equalizer in the 18th minute following Jose Vigil's free kick from about 40 yards out, and Ripon was able to stave off an onslaught of Riverbank shots to keep it tied by halftime.

Riverbank outshot the Indians 14-3 in the first half and 21-4 overall.

Jonathan Rodriguez catapulted the Bruins (10-1-1, 11-9-1 overall) ahead in the 52nd minute after Jonathan Solano's crossed ball was bobbled and dropped by Ripon goalkeeper Henk Gaalswyk (eight saves). Riverbank keeper Rafael Ramirez snagged seven saves in the win.

In the 79th minute, Rodrigo put the match out of reach by finishing off a cross delivered by Kenny Veliz.

Riverbank went on to avenge their only Trans-Valley League tie by ousting Hughson in a 4-0 blowout two days later. Solano and Martin Pantoja each scored while Carlos Jimenez nailed down two goals.

The win capped a tremendous 10-1-1 TVL finish for the Bruins and provided a great finishing touch on the league title race.

"The day before that Hughson game I asked them how they wanted to go into playoffs," Gonzales said. "I said do you want to go into playoffs and throw the momentum away or roll in wining?

"They answered that question with a 3-0 first half lead on Hughson in our last game."

Despite a one-sided TVL title, Riverbank has a fairly tough draw into the Division V Sac-Joaquin Section playoff bracket.

Not only is Riverbank the only No. 1 seed to face a No. 2 seed (Summerville), but the Bruins will be forced to tackle Golden Empire League champ and returning section runner-up, Christian Brothers, on the road if the two teams meet in the second round (semifinals).

"Summerville is tough and they play a lot of long balls out of the air," Gonzales said. "They depend on a lot of speed, but unfortunately for them, we have a lot of speed.

"I want to see the players play those balls out of the air and keep it on the ground to play our style."

Riverbank hosts Summerville on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. to kick off postseason play.

Gonzales credited Riverbank's late progression to assistant coach and Stanislaus State soccer player Andres Zamora. Zamora grew up in Riverbank but played most of his high school soccer in Texas.

Gonzales said Zamora's training strategies and passion for the game has done wonders for the team this season.

Manteca Bulletin reporter Jonamar Jacinto contributed to this report.