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Pepic scores twice as Buffs top LHS

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Pepic scores twice as Buffs top LHS

Stephanie Gonzalez sets up Manteca teammate Leah Manuelelua’s first-half goal with this pass over Lathrop’s Brianna Fernandez.


POSTED March 21, 2014 12:39 a.m.

Manteca fielded the younger team for a Valley Oak League match at Lathrop on Thursday, but it was the visiting Buffaloes who played like the more experienced club.

Lejla Pepic scored twice off assists from fellow freshman Natalia Duran, and Manteca coasted to a 4-0 victory. Sophomore Leah Manuleleua added a goal, and Avigail Mayen registered the last one on a penalty kick. Manteca (2-0 VOL, 9-1 overall) has nine underclassmen in its roster of 18.

“We have a lot of girls who start playing as freshmen and we’re playing teams that have years and years of experience — that’s the difference right now,” second-year Lathrop coach Gabe Padilla said. “It’s a challenge but the girls are up for it. Last year when we’d give up two goals they would have laid down. Manteca came down here and beat us 8-0 last year, but tonight they kept on fighting.”

It was a one-sided fight in the early going, as Manteca came out aggressively and had Lathrop on the defensive.

Pepic blasted in her first goal from just inside the 18-yard line, taking advantage of an uncontested chance set up by Duran’s negative pass.

Lathrop senior Sierra Downum had two breakaway opportunities thwarted by Manteca keeper Alyssa Burch in the 27th and 28th minutes. Those represented the Spartans’ first two shot attempts.

Manteca doubled its lead in the 38th minute when Manuleleua finished off Stephanie Gonzalez’s well-timed lob into the 6-yard box.

“I always say it comes down to the little things, and for us it was fighting for the 50-50 balls in the air or getting to the ball first,” Padilla said. “(Manteca) was beating us to every ball in the first half. We did a better job in the second half and strung a couple of attacks together we just couldn’t take care of our chances.”

The same could be said for Manteca, which outshot the Spartans (1-2, 4-7-1), 21-4. In their VOL opener Tuesday, the Buffaloes had an overwhelming 36-0 shot advantage but only had six goals to show for it.

Pepic had two short-range attempts sail off the mark early in the second half and finally struck again in the 53rd minute. Duran started the scoring run from the left side and centered it to Jasmine Basuil, who headed it to Pepic. The freshman phenom sent it high into the goal and beyond the reach of Flores (nine saves).

“We’re not finishing really well right now and it’s something we’re definitely going to focus on,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “We’ve had trouble actually getting it there earlier (in the season) but now that’s starting to improve. We’re getting good movement and build-up up top, we’re just not finishing.”


Manteca 7, Lathrop 0

The Buffaloes (2-0) had seven different goal scorers Thursday night: Julie Penora, Isabel Quintos, Esperanza De La Riva, Sarah Vegas, Jennifer Rodriguez, Stephanie Gutierrez and Allison Hoyer.

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