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BEST OF THE BEST

Isela Rivera garners VOL MVP award; coaches also honor league’s young talent

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BEST OF THE BEST

East Union senior Isela Rivera (center) was voted the Valley Oak League’s MVP by its coaches, who also recognized the next class of stars during the all-league process. East Union freshman Ilena R...

Bulletin file photos by SEAN KAHLER, HIME ROMERO, JONAMAR JACINTO/Photo illustration by CURT MURRAY


POSTED May 22, 2014 12:46 a.m.

Go ahead, Lady Lancers, take a victory lap.

Fresh off the school’s first Sac-Joaquin Section championship and an unbeaten season, the East Union girls soccer team has added a few more jewels to its already gaudy gold crown.

Senior striker Isela Rivera was named the Valley Oak League’s Most Valuable Player after leading a talent-rich league in points (68) and goals scored.

The San Jose State-bound striker had 29 goals and 10 assists, one of only three players to rank in the top-four of each category.

But it was her ability to lead a relatively young team that set her apart from the rest.

After sitting out a year, Rivera returned to the Lancers a determined soul, bent on making history and sealing her legacy. She carried the team to a Valley Oak League title and the program’s first-ever section title.

She was brilliant in the Division IV final, too, scoring two goals in a 3-2 victory over Vista del Lago.

“Having her leading the group on the field was like having a coach playing,” Polanco said. “… Everybody on the team worked hard, but she put her teammates on her shoulders.”

The victory put the finishing touches on a remarkable debut for Polanco, named the VOL Coach of the Year in his first season.

East Union finished 20-0-1 mark and at one point ascended No. 1 in the MaxPreps state rankings.

“When we start playing, we talked as a group. We were focused on the season. Our focus was to go all the way to sections,” Polanco said. “We had a good group of players. I was convinced and they were convinced they could do it.”

Three other Lancers joined Rivera on the first team, including sisters Isabella (three goals, 13 assists) and Ilena Rivera (10 goals, nine assists) and sophomore defender Mariah Jeffrey.

Six members of the all-VOL first team were underclassmen, suggesting that the future of one of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s power conferences remains bright.

Topping that list of underclassmen is Kimball’s Samantha Tran, a national prospect and the VOL’s top returning scorer. Tran pushed Isela for the VOL scoring title, rounding out her sophomore campaign with 28 goals and four assists.

Manteca sophomore midfielder Leah Manuleleua (19 goals, four assists), Kimball goalie Amanda Leal (freshman), Kimball defender Amanda Arledge (sophomore), Jeffrey and Ilena Rivera – a playmaking freshman – round out of the list of rising young stars.

Manuleleua was joined on the first team by teammates Avigail Mayen (five goals, seven assists) and Harleen Pabla, who scored a bulk of her 13 goals following a midseason switch to forward.

The youth-laden Buffaloes reached the Division III final.

“They are a great team,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “ … They all wanted to win the championship so bad. I think this will drive (them) to be even more successful next year. Very excited about our future.”

Lathrop celebrated the program’s first first-team selections in defender Brianna Fernandez (assist) and forward Sierra Downum (11 goals, four assists).

“It’s never happened at our school before and I am very proud of our two selections,” Lathrop coach Gabe Padilla said. “I thought both Bri and Sierra were our two leaders on the field and deserved first-team honors. They would fight from first whistle until the last whistle.”

Weston Ranch senior midfielder Lucero Ambriz was also selected to the first team.

Surprisingly, Sierra didn’t receive a single first-team nod, despite finishing the season in playoff contention and fielding one of the area’s top offensive players in Sydnee Canales (18 goals, 11 assists).

Instead, the Timberwolves saw a host of players named to the second team, including Canales; forwards Naomi Nunis (13 goals in 18 games) and Kaleigh Doyle (16 goals); and defender Marissa LaQuaglia (one goal, two assists).

East Union also had four named to the second team: goalie Taylor Gray; defender Isabella Cardenas; midfielder Maddie Yslava (eight goals); and forward Meghan Wallace (eight goals).

Manteca goalie Alyssa Burch (.971 goals against average) was also a second-team selection.

Local honorable mentions included: East Union’s Aly Lecce (four goals); Lathrop’s Nancy Ramos (two assists), Stephanie Maduli (three goals) and Nerildy Olivares (two assists); and Sierra’s Emma Broderick (1.481 GAA) and Daisey Rivera (three goals, five assists).

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