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Manteca, Sierra find solace with hard-earned draw
Lopezs equalizer keeps TWolves within reach of first-place Buffs
Manteca goalkeeper Abdiel Chiquito is unable to come up with the ball as Sierras Ruben Lopez fires a point-blank shot by him. - photo by HIME ROMERO

An action-packed 3-3 tie felt like a win for both Manteca High and visiting rival Sierra at Guss Schmiedt Field Friday night.

That’s because second-place Sierra (6-1-3, 10-2-4 overall), which trailed the Buffaloes (7-1-2, 16-1-2) by two points in the Valley Oak League standings going in, was in danger of falling further back in the title chase while trailing by two goals after giving up three unanswered in a span of 14 minutes early in the second half.

Sophomore defender Anis Guedoir knocked in a header, and Ruben Lopez’s head shot in the 68th minute led to the come-from-behind draw.

For Manteca, it remains on pace to seize its first league championship since 2007, but four worthy challengers are left in its regular-season schedule.

It’s rare for crosstown foes to leave the pitch satisfied with a tie, especially with how competitive the VOL is this year. That was the case on Friday.

“We’re extremely happy with how we played,” said Sierra co-head coach Brett Parham. “Overall, it was a great result and a great game. We’re still two points behind them and we didn’t lose any ground. We’re in a good position for moving on (to the playoffs) and that’s what we play for.”

Sierra dominated possession and dictated the pace for much of the first half, carrying a 1-0 lead into halftime with Nicholas Gonzalez breaking the ice in the second minute.

Manteca forced a helter-skelter tempo to start the second half by switching to a more offensive posture in its formation.

It worked.

Ramon Rodriguez sparked the Buffaloes with the match’s best-looking goal just two minutes into half, volleying in Onacis Illan’s high-arcing cross from distance with his left foot.

Manuel Nuno, following an indirect kick from Cesar Reyes, gave Manteca the lead with a header in the 54th minute, and momentum continued to teeter in its direction as Nacho Valdovinos found net from an awkward angle — he delivered a needle-threading shot from the right side of the endline, sneaking it between Sierra keeper Manuel Garcia and the right post — just two minutes later.

“It was a game of momentum swings,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “We knew nothing was going to be easy and these guys (Sierra) weren’t just going to roll over. I was proud of the way my guys came back and didn’t quit after going down 1-0, we just looked a little gassed there in the end and had a few bounces and some miscommunication that resulted in the tie.”

Sierra did well to quickly turn the tide, first with Guedoir’s header from Gonzalez’s corker kick in the 63rd minute. Then in the 68th, Sergio Mendiola launched a deep ball toward Manteca’s penalty area, where the fleet-footed Lopez directed his run. The ball took one hop, and Lopez beat charging Manteca goalie Abdiel Chiquito to it and poked it in with his forehead.

“We just had to step it up and keep that pressure,” Lopez said. The whole team just kept going and going until the end, and we almost had the win.”

Sierra had five good looks at it over the final 10 minutes, three coming from distance by the always-dangerous Erick Noriega. Chiquito came up with some big saves (7 in all) in the end to preserve the tie. Sierra’s Garcia finished with six saves.

The Timberwolves outshot Manteca 24-13 by the final whistle.

“This game can be brutal at times,” Parham said. “You can have a lot of shots and dominate but it doesn’t always go to the back of the net. You have to look at the level we played at, and we did exactly what we set out to do and came out with a tie.

“That’s OK, it happens. We’re not disappointed at all.”


Manteca 3, Sierra 1

Raul Marquez, Jose Marin and Kevin Rodriguez each contributed a goal in Manteca’s dominant win. Sierra didn’t score until the final play of the match when the ball deflected off a Manteca defender on corner kick.