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Going out on top
Versatile Vanni keyed Sierras run to section title
Stephanie Vanni is the Bulletins All-Area Soccer MVP - photo by HIME ROMERO

Striker of the Year

Isela Rivera, East Union freshman: Feisty freshman was phenomenal in her high school debut, leading the area with 23 assists and total points scored (73) while tying two others with 25 goals. Her four hat tricks were also an area best.


Midfielder of the Year

Regina Dias, East Union freshman: The Lancers have a formidable 1-2 punch to build around over the next three seasons with Dias (20 goals, 10 assists) playing behind Rivera.


Defender of the Year

Sydnee Koscielecki, Sierra senior: Fast and versatile, Koscielecki was dangerous on counter-attacking runs from the flanks while providing some punch on set pieces. Contributed three goals and eight assists on offense on top of leading the area’s top defense.



Kirsten Lown, Ripon Christian senior: Lown was the leading scorer with 16 goals for a team that made its first postseason appearance in over a decade.


Sammie Morris, Manteca sophomore: There was no sophomore jinx for this dynamic goal scorer, who amassed 25 to go with 10 assists.


Joanna Ortiz, Sierra junior: Scored in each of Sierra’s three postseason contests to finish with a team-high 25 goals to go with 11 assists.


Katherine Ratto, Ripon senior: Provided leadership as well as goals for a young and rebuilding team that reached the playoffs for a fifth straight year.



Dianna Alfaro, Sierra senior: Sometimes overshadowed by other talented seniors on the team, Alfaro (five goals, six assists) quietly had a terrific season as Sierra’s slick playmaker from the wings.


Sidtia Sidtikun, Ripon sophomore: One of just three returning starters from 2010 SJS Division-V championship team was the Indians’ rock as their top playmaker and assist leader.


Ashley Roberts, Ripon Christian senior: Wily veteran was RC’s sparkplug, finishing with eight goals and three assists.


Jessica Reeder, Manteca junior: Two of Reeder’s four goals were scored in a 3-1 win over Kimball that kept the Buffaloes in the hunt until the final week of the season.


Stephanee Sabala, East Union junior: One of the area’s most unique players with her blend of size and skills, the 6-foot winger produced seven goals and nine assists.



Breanna Mortimer, Ripon junior: Trans Valley League’s Defensive MVP led a back line that allowed just nine goals in 12 conference matches.


Abigail Rosas, Manteca senior: Two-time all-VOL first-team selection was the lone senior of a young defensive group that gave up only 21 goals in 23 matches.


Rachel Sianez, East Union freshman: The one constant of an ever-changing back line battered by injuries and eligibility issues was the always-reliable Sianez in the middle.



Jimi Guibor, Manteca junior: Athletic shot stopper often rose to the occasion in some of the Buffaloes’ biggest games. Allowed 21 goals and recorded 11 shutouts in 23 matches.


Lia Unterholzner, Sierra junior: Had some heroic moments in the box but especially shined in Sierra’s 2-1 OT win over Vista del Lago in the playoffs. Finished with 11 clean sheets and 23 goals against in 24 appearances.


— Jonamar Jacinto

Stephanie Vanni had already been a part of two Valley Oak League championship teams.

So when her Sierra High girls soccer team failed to make it three straight this past spring season, she set her sights on an even larger prize, one that has eluded her before over her four-year varsity career.

“Being a captain, I wanted us to meet all of our goals this year,” said the Bulletin’s All-Area Girls Soccer MVP. “VOL was one of our goals and we didn’t reach it, but we had no problems bringing home that (Sac-Joaquin) section banner.”

Vanni was the heart and soul of Sierra’s 2011 team that edged VOL rival, and champion, Oakdale High 1-0 for the program’s fourth section title in its seventh final-round appearance.

Getting there wasn’t easy.

Sierra was hardly at full strength during the regular season with injuries to key players, making things tough for a squad lacking the depth enjoyed in years past.

The Timberwolves suffered their only two-match losing streak of the year when they ended the preseason with a promising, albeit losing, effort against Stockton powerhouse St. Mary’s at their own Vern Gebhardt Champions Cup before dropping a 3-2 decision to Oakdale in the VOL opener.

The loss to Oakdale came on March 16, and Sierra went on to mount a 16-match unbeaten streak en route to the section crown.

Vanni played a big part in Sierra’s strong finish. Alternating between the striker and center-mid positions with talented junior Joanna Ortiz throughout the run, Vanni played her best over the last half of conference play.

After Sierra got even with Oakdale by the same 3-2 score from their previous showdown, Vanni scored the lone goal in a pivotal 1-0 victory over in-town foe East Union.

She also scored in a 3-3 tie against Kimball, and in the final week of league Vanni exploded for eight total goals against Lathrop and Weston Ranch.

“We had some bumps in the road, and we just managed to bounce back as a team,” Vanni said. “We did it together.”

Vanni recorded her 23rd and final goal of the season in the first round of the SJS playoffs, scoring once in Sierra’s commanding 2-0 win over Livingston.

What followed was a shocking 2-1 overtime triumph in Folsom, where the T’Wolves came from behind to knock off postseason favorite Vista del Lago. Vista was in control for most of the contest and led 1-0 going into the final minute of regulation, but in stoppage time Ortiz tied it up to force two 10-minute overtime periods.

Early in the second overtime period, Dianna Alfaro found the net off a cross from Sydnee Canales, and Sierra held on to secure its spot in the finals.

“That’s up there on the list,” Vanni said, ranking it among some of the most exciting moments in her soccer career. “That was crazy. Everything was on the line, and we just never gave up and kept fighting until the very last second. We definitely didn’t want to go out losing.”

Vanni had experienced heartbreak before.

In 2009, Vanni’s older sister, Nicole, led the team to a 26-0-2 record and a national ranking, only to be upset by Whitney of Rocklin 4-1 in the section’s Division-IV title game.

And last year they were denied a return to the section finale by none other than Whitney, a 1-0 victor over the Timberwolves in a semifinal match.

“Most of the (seniors) were a part of the section title game in 09, so we didn’t want to have that happen again,” Vanni said. “It was an amazing feeling (to win). It was a great way to end the season and my career at Sierra.”

Vanni solidified her place alongside her big sister as one of Sierra’s all-time greats. Stephanie racked up 66 goals and 27 assists in her four varsity seasons, and Sierra went 81-19-10 over that stretch.

While Nicole left Sierra as its all-time leading scorer (107 goals, 44 assists), Stephanie’s value was in her versatility. She is a stalwart defender, a crafty playmaker from midfield and a capable finisher on the attacking third.

The Vannis will be reunited in the fall on San Francisco State’s women’s team.

“I like playing different positions, it doesn’t get so boring that way,” she said. “Wherever they needed me, I’d do it for (coach Manuel Pires) and the team.”