The Valley Oak League uses a points-based system to determine its MVP.
Be among the leaders by the end of the regular season and do well in the league tournament and you have a shot. Brooke Riley did so the past two years without much of a challenge.
On Thursday, the talented junior showed just how “valuable” she is to East Union, which is gunning for its eighth straight VOL championship. The Lancers outshot rival Sierra 251-261 at Manteca Park Golf Course, proving once again that they are still the ones to beat.
As long as Riley remains injury-free, that should remain the case for the remainder of the season. She was low medalist by a wide margin, finishing 3-under-par 34 on Manteca Park’s front nine. The next lowest score belonged to Sierra’s Vanessa Rodriguez, who carded a 46. All others checked in at 50 or higher.
“Brooke made the difference in the match today,” East Union co-head coach Dennis Wells said. “She’s automatic. We keep telling her to not get complacent, to keep pushing to go lower and lower and she’s doing that.”
East Union is off to a 2-0 start, while Sierra drops to 2-1. Coach Jack Thomson is encouraged by his team’s early-season consistency. The match was the Timberwolves’ third in as many days, starting with a statement win over Central Catholic followed by a solid 245 score at Van Buskirk Golf Course on Wednesday.
“That’s a pretty good stretch for us,” Thomson said. “We didn’t play that bad today; we just didn’t play as well as we did (Wednesday).”
And no one played as well as Riley.
Sierra’s Arlene Gavino produced the third-place score of 50. McKenna Doyle and Kayla Wilson turned in a 52 and 55, respectively, while Legacy Barnes and Krystal Rayevich contributed 58s.
“There’s nobody who works harder at her craft than Brooke,” Thomson said. “Our best score was a 46, and if you have to make up 12 strokes out of the gate it’s tough to do. We just have to find a way to get a little bit better.”
Wells is looking to do the same with his group, which consists mostly of freshmen. Allie Tajii placed fourth overall with a 53 and was backed by 54s from Natalie Cowan and Rebeca Leonard. Michaela Pangburn added a 56, and Chloe Cardenas’s 57 was the Lancers’ throw-out.
“It is days like this that reminds us they’re freshmen,” Wells said. Outside of Riley and Leonard, both juniors, the rest of the team is made up of inexperienced freshmen.
“We know as coaches we got a lot of work to do. They’re not quite where I want them to be but I still see a lot of potential in there.”
East Union will next play at Dryden Park Golf Course in Modesto, a track the team isn’t familiar with. Hosting is Central Catholic, the VOL’s newest member after it reigned atop the Western Athletic Conference the past four years. Sierra is hosting Kimball on Monday.