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Sierra reigns in town, but VOL still up for grabs

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Stephanie Vanni celebrates Sierra High's fourth unanswered goal in the opening minute of the second half at crosstown rival East Union's Dino Cunial Field Thursday. Vanni finished with two goals an...

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED April 23, 2010 1:42 a.m.
Sierra High shored up city bragging rights by beating rival host East Union 4-2 at Dino Cunial Field Thursday, but the third horse in town, Manteca, still has the upper hand in the Valley Oak League title race.

Anything can happen with two weeks to go, and Sierra (10-1-2, 14-5-2), which trails Manteca by a point in the standings despite beating the Buffaloes twice, needed to win Thursday to stay in the hunt.

The remainder of the conference schedule favors Sierra, which has three matches left against teams ranked in the bottom third.

East Union (7-3-2, 12-5-4), has four games remaining and still has to face Manteca a second time in its final regular-season contest.

“This was a very important win for us, not just for playoffs but also to win league,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “This was a huge step for us, because had we lost there would be a chance of us not even making the playoffs.”

The Timberwolves bounced back in a big way after suffering their first-ever loss to third-place Oakdale Tuesday, 3-1.

Sierra scored the first four goals of the match Wednesday, including one on the final sequence of the first half to make it 3-0 and another in the first minute of the second.

Stephanie Vanni was at the right place and the right time on her two goals in the 11th and 41st minutes, as she followed up on initial shots that she took in off the rebound.

Vanni also assisted the first of two goals scored by sophomore striker Joanna Ortiz. Ortiz blasted in the deflating goal just before halftime, sending a free kick in from outside the penalty box on a free kick.

“We didn’t do so well against Oakdale, but we got back to practice, worked real hard and brought it on the field today,” Ortiz said. “We let that go, flipped the page and started a new game ready to go.”

East Union, to its credit, continued to battle after absorbing Sierra’s early onslaught.

In the 46th minute, Ode Castillo deflected in Kianna Lamont’s cross in traffic to put the Lancers on the board. With 17 minutes remaining, Kayla Lamont halved the deficit with a beautiful direct kick from the left touchline and hit the right panel.

The rematch between the two teams was as physical as the first with 28 fouls called including five bookings. The difference was in the score. When they met on March 25 shot attempts were at a premium and they settled for a scoreless tie.

“We opened up real well,” EU coach Jim Todd said. “In the first 10 minutes I thought we had control of the game and distributed the ball well, and then they scored in the 11th minute.  We didn’t posture as much defensively as we did before, and it cost us a little bit.”
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