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Manteca, Sierra get tough first-round draws

Ripon pitted against familiar foe in quest for second straight title

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Manteca, Sierra get tough first-round draws

Senior Rileigh Mankin hopes to end her four-year varsity career at Manteca High with the school's first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section championship this week. The Buffaloes are making their first postsea...

Bulletin file photo/

POSTED May 18, 2010 2:54 a.m.
Things don’t get any easier for the girls soccer teams of Sierra and Manteca high schools.

After laboring through the always-challenging Valley Oak League season in which Sierra garnered its 11th title in the school’s 16-year varsity history while Manteca settled for second, both squads have bumpy roads ahead in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs.

Sierra and Manteca open the postseason with tough draws, which is unavoidable in a bracket consisting of seven legit teams worthy of a section championship.

In Division V, defending champion Ripon takes on a familiar postseason foe in Hilmar.

Sierra (17-5-2) made its eighth section finals appearance in 2009 and was favored to grab its fourth section title with an impressive 26-0-2 record. But Whitney came through with a 4-1 upset and is a threat to repeat this year.

The Timberwolves’ first-round opponent is no slouch, even if it has no seniors. Cosumnes Oaks (14-4-2) of Elk Grove is a second-year school, but its girls soccer program is already on the map having qualified for the playoffs with no upperclassmen last year.

Cosumnes Oaks hasn’t lost since dropping a 2-1 decision to Davis on a non-league match March 24.

The Wolfpack — which has two juniors, 12 sophomores and four freshmen listed on its roster — is led by a quartet of sophomores: Strikers Ciarra Jones (13 goals) and Kara Manns (11 goals); and midfielders Kira Wagoner (16 goals, five assists) and Mireya Wathen-Mayorga (10 goals, five assists). Sierra and Cosumnes Oaks do have a common opponent in Manteca. Manteca and Cosumnes battled to a scoreless draw in non-league action, while Sierra swept the Buffaloes in conference play.

Manteca (18-5-2) came into the final week of the regular season on fire having won 11 of its previous 12, but it tied Oakdale 1-1 to fall out of first place and dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to rival East Union, a playoff-caliber team that did not advance with only three coming out of the VOL.

The area’s most prolific offense — starring four-year starter Rileigh Mankin (13 goals, 14 assists), speedster Airenne Curry (15 goals, two assists) and freshmen Sammie Morris (23 goals, nine assists) and Sialei Manuleleua (16 goals, nine assists) — will surely be tested against a Colfax team that has given up just seven goals all season.

Manteca’s 99 goals on the season lead all area teams, but it is the only playoff team from the area to hit the road for its first-round match. And it’s a long ways from home.

Colfax (18-1-3) is the No. 2 seed from the Pioneer Valley League, and its only loss came against Whitney.

The defensive-minded Falcons have scored more than five goals just three times, but they do have dangerous players up front. Senior Ashley Tobiasz leads the team with 16 goals. Goalkeepers Amber Cramer and Beka Bolger have combined for 20 shutouts.

The Ripon-Hilmar playoff rivalry resumes after having met the last three seasons since Hilmar left the Trans Valley League after 2006. And the victor of this annual meeting ended up with a section title.

Last year, the Indians (17-2-3) dispatched Hilmar 2-0 in the semifinals before claiming the school’s first-ever section banner in girls soccer with a 1-0 victory over Central Catholic.

But Hilmar beat Ripon in the semifinals in 2008 and in the finals in 2007 while capturing back-to-back crowns.

Hilmar (14-6-3) is more battle-tested going in, finishing third in the Western Athletic Conference. Ripon, meanwhile, faced its best opponents in the preseason and cruised to its fourth straight TVL title.

Today’s contest will feature two of the section’s top goal scorers in Riponn’s Renae McFadden (34 goals) and Hilmar’s Haylee Bettencourt (30 goals, 29 assists).

— Jonamar Jacinto

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