The streak of undefeated conference titles for Oakdale High’s varsity boys water polo team has ended at four.
The Mustangs were stunned by host Ripon in a 12-10 thriller on Sept. 26, resulting in Oakdale’s first league loss since 2007 and suddenly thrusting second-year Ripon into the forefront as Valley Oak League favorites.
“Yes, I would consider this a big win, absolutely,” Ripon head coach Eric Zador said after the win. “They went undefeated last year and they did lose quite a few boys from last year, but for us this is a pretty big win.”
Oakdale graduated all but one starter (Adam Lahey), and didn’t have an answer from Ripon scores that erupted from all corners of the pool for an 8-4 Ripon lead at the half.
Oakdale ultimately saw scores from Ben Kirby (four), Lahey (three), Dayne Dimberg (one), Jared Kahler (one), and Taylor Leach (one).
Both Cole Gonzalez and Nathaniel Gagnon helped Ripon with three goals apiece, while Caleb Rogers led the Indians with four goals. Teammates Dalton Trotter and Zach Scutter both notched one score.
Since Ripon opened VOL play with a 9-7 win over Sonora, the Indians have now beaten the No. 1 and 2 teams from the conference in 2011. With struggling Kimball rounding out the league schedule, the Indians can play tough against Sonora and Oakdale at the close of league to escape with the school’s first ever water polo title.
Oakdale can force a tie with Ripon and contend for the top seed into the postseason by toppling the Indians at the Oakdale Aquatic Center on Oct. 17. Today’s 3 p.m. showdown with Sonora will keep the Mustangs in the running for that possible showdown late in the year.
The Lady Mustangs (2-0 VOL, 11-2) cruised past Ripon 15-3 on the impressive efforts of eight goal-scorers on Sept. 26. Katie Vanderburg led the way with four scores while Shelby Stender, Hannah Hanko, Amee Neathery and Cassie Lee each scored two. Megan Tackett, Emily Stolken and Cheyenne Chrisman landed one goal apiece.
Things only got better for the Mustang girls two days later, when the returning SJS Division II runner-ups blasted through the prestigious Woodcreek Invitational with four straight wins over quality opponents to steal top honors in the tourney’s ‘B’ Bracket.
The wins will go a long way to impress SJS officials who ultimately seed the playoff brackets, considering three came against 2011 playoff qualifiers.
Oakdale began the success with a 12-4 win over host Woodcreek after scores from Stender (five), Lee (three), Neathery (two), Vanderburg and Hanko.
The Mustangs eased past 2011 North Coast Section DI playoff qualifiers, Clayton Valley, with a 12-6 victory in the quarterfinals. Lee had four goals in the win while Stolken (three), Stender (three), Neathery, and Vanderbug scored.
In an exciting tourney semifinal, Oakdale edged 2011 Metro League champs and SJS DII semifinalists, McClatchy, with an 11-7 win. Stender (four), Lee (two), Neathery (two), Vikki Swarthout and Stolken all found the net in the victory.
The highly anticipated tourney final featured Oakdale against unbeaten Lodi, who won the San Joaquin Athletic Association and two playoff games before slipping to the eventual Division I SJS champion (Davis) in 2011.
Oakdale stayed tough late to outlast Lodi in an 8-7 finale for the title. Stender scored four times while Lee notched three and Neathery scored once. Benson landed eight of her 33 total tournament saves during the win. Caitlin Golding pulled in six saves in reserve action for the Mustangs during tourney play.
Jagada Chambers of the Manteca Bulletin contributed to this report.