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Manteca shutout in D3 final

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POSTED May 18, 2014 8:59 p.m.

ELK GROVE – Manteca’s opportunity to win a first-ever girls soccer section championship slipped away after an overpowering shot by Nici Lopez found the back of the net for Christian Brothers in the 61st minute Saturday.

The shot decided the Division III final, propelling the Falcons (12-6-7) to a 1-0 victory over the Buffaloes.

“We knew they’d be solid,” Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg said. “They capitalized on their opportunity and got a good shot off. They played really well (Saturday).”

Manteca (18-5-2) played well, too.

The Buffaloes had a handful of opportunities, including an early header by senior Harleen Pabla in the 13th minute. Pabla was held scoreless for the first time this tournament.

Manteca was out-possessed and outshot by a wide margin, but the game remained scoreless through the first half despite Christian Brothers having two near-scoring chances in the first nine minutes.

Lopez, who scored the eventual game-winner midway through the second half with a laser to the far-right corner past Manteca goalie Alyssa Burch, almost scored three minutes before the half with a shot that banged off the top corner of the frame and back into play.

Manteca’s Lejla Pepic, Leah Manuleleua and Pabla all had second-half shots on goal smothered by Christian Brothers’ goalie Katie Kerth.

“(Manteca) is a very physical, disciplined team,” Christian Brothers head coach Jacob Hunley said. “They gave us a lot of trouble. We had plenty of opportunities. We were fortunate to convert one of our chances. Hats off to Manteca – they’re a solid squad.”

The Buffaloes didn’t roll over after Lopez scored the go-ahead goal, either.

Manteca’s Katelyn Rosas and Natalia Duran got on a run toward the Christian Brothers net in the 65th minute. The senior Rosas dished it to the freshman Duran, who put her foot on it and just missed the net right. In the 73rd minute and in stoppage time, Manuleleua fired two shots at the cage, but Kerth blocked both.

“I’m proud of my girls for a good season,” Coenenberg concluded. “I don’t think anybody expected us to be in the section final at the beginning of the season. It will be always be a special year for me, just a little disappointed we couldn’t finish it.”

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