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Welcome back, Lincoln

Marcus Montano celebrates one of his team-leading 20 goals for Manteca during a 3-2 win over Sierra on Sept. 19.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo/

POSTED November 4, 2013 11:47 p.m.

Justin Coenenberg wears many hats when hosting the annual Buffalo Cup, from head coach for the Manteca High boys soccer team, to tournament director and snack bar coordinator.

One thing he doesn’t get to do is scout.

Too bad, because his Buffaloes begin the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs against one of the teams they hosted in early September.

Lincoln of Placer County returns to Guss Schmiedt Field tonight to face fifth-seeded Manteca (16-3-4). The Buffaloes won their own tournament, while Lincoln placed seventh in the eight-team field.

“To be honest, I don’t know too much about them,” Coenenberg said. “We didn’t get to play against them in our tournament, and I was doing a lot of running around when we weren’t playing so I didn’t see a whole lot of them.”

The Fighting Zebras (9-5-3) finished third in the Pioneer Valley League and are seeded 12th. Diminutive junior midfielder Christian Guzman accounts for 19 of Lincoln’s 41 goals, five of which came in the three-day Buffalo Cup. He has scored in 14 of Lincoln’s 17 matches.

Logan Hasty (7 goals) is Lincoln’s other offensive threat.

“We just can’t make mistakes in the back like we have been,” Coenenberg said. “We want to come out and possess the ball right away. When we are making dynamic and creative runs, that’s when we are most successful.”

Manteca settled for second place in the VOL after claiming a share with Sierra last season. The Buffaloes were unable to come up with wins in their final league contests, losing to third-place Weston Ranch — the No. 1 seed in Division IV — and tying Lathrop and East Union.

“The VOL was competitive and we had to play a lot of games in the second half (of the season) on the road,” Coenenberg said. “We definitely want to come out and have a better showing (tonight). We have a lot of seniors who have one last opportunity to play a home game. Hopefully they get to leave that field with a better feeling than we did against East Union (on senior night).”

The winner of tonight’s contest heads to Fairfield on Thursday to face unbeaten Vanden (16-0-1), the No. 4 seed. Should Manteca win, it would be a rematch of their 2012 quarterfinal won by the then-top-seeded Buffs, 2-1. They went on to lose to Central Valley, 1-0.

“If we beat Lincoln it only gets more difficult,” Coenenberg said. “Vanden was a young, talented team last year that returns a lot of players.”

On the same side of the bracket is top-seeded Central Valley (23-1), which awaits the Rio-Americano-Benicia winner. The always-tough Hawks are three-time section runners-up in the past four years. They reached last season’s Division III championship as the No. 5 seed and lost to No. 6 River Valley, 2-0.

On the opposite end is second-seeded Oakdale (16-4-5), which twice edged Manteca 3-2 en route to grabbing the VOL crown. Central Valley boasts a 2-1 nonleague win over the Mustangs.

Third-seeded Christian Brothers (12-3-4), No. 7 Ceres (12-5-1) and No. 11 Patterson (16-3-1) also loom as threats in this loaded bracket.

“I have heard that Division III is by far the strongest in the section,” Coenenberg said. “History has shown that you don’t need to be a high seed to win it. It’s nice to have that first-round bye, but I like the spot we are at right now. No matter what, we have to beat somebody (good) to get to where we want to be.”

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