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T’Wolves not to be denied

Last-minute Vanni PK ices nailbiter over Mustangs

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T’Wolves not to be denied

Nicole Vanni sends home career goal No. 100 on the game-winning penalty kick Thursday at Sierra High. The Timberwolves beat Oakdale, 2-1.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED April 24, 2009 3:41 a.m.

A supremely talented class of eight Sierra High seniors celebrated their final regular season game on the home pitch Thursday evening at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, but their opponent, the Oakdale Mustangs, were dead-set on spoiling the party.

With four minutes left, however, Mariela Pimentel, in just her second game back from an injury, made the play of the game, beating two Oakdale defenders in the box before being hacked from behind and setting up the game-winning penalty kick.

Nicole Vanni then scored career goal No. 100 by slipping a screamer past the outstretched arms of Jennie Paugh, giving the Timberwolves their 23rd straight win, 2-1.

“Mariela made an incredible play attacking the box,” Sierra head coach Manuel Pires said. “It was a great call; there was no doubt in my mind it was a penalty kick.”

Pires was ecstatic that the Mustangs came to play, especially with the postseason looming.

“This is what we needed, this was great,” he said. “The playoffs are going to be these types of tough games. You’re going to have pressure plays all over the field.

“We can’t play just one half. We have to play two.”

Sierra was its usual slow-starting self in the front 40, but still managed 10 shots to Oakdale’s two.

In the 15th minute, Lacy Vaughan worked a rebound off a corner, beat a defender and lofted a perfectly placed cross to Michaela Scott in the box who headed it in for the 1-0 advantage.

“I just found it in the corner and they were in the perfect position for me to cross it,” Vaughan said. “It felt like a playoff game, one of the toughest games we’ve played all season. But we really stepped it up in the second half.”

Kristen Brunk answered Scott’s goal 10 minutes later off a well-placed far-post cross.

Paugh was brilliant for Oakdale down the stretch, collecting five her 11 saves by leaving her feet.

“(Paugh) was on her game, she made some great saves,” Pires said. “In the second half we made her work, and she made just about every stop.”

Sierra finished with 15 second-half shots, the majority coming with less than 20 minutes left.

Vanni hit both the post and the cross bar during the late barrage, and remains just one goal shy of tying the career record at Sierra High.

Vanni will make her next attempt at matching Cherie Early’s mark when the T’Wolves (12-0 VOL, 23-0-1) travel to Sonora Tuesday.

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