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Mendezs last-second goal in 1st half helps Sierra salvage tie
Sierras Eddie Aguilar beats Mantecas Erik Ruelas to the ball with a header. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Manteca and Sierra were desperate for a win when they met at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium on Wednesday.

They settled on a 1-1 draw. Neither team was ecstatic with result, but both have reasons not to be overly disappointed about it.

Host Sierra (7-3-1, 13-7-2 overall) falls further behind East Union in the Valley Oak League title chase, but the depleted Timberwolves were coming off three losses in their last four matches. They were minus center midfielder Kevin Mendiola and defender Joel Lemus, their best two ball handlers, all week with illnesses.

They were fortunate to come away with a tie considering their lone goal came on the final play of the first half.

“Normally we don’t play for a tie, but in the situation that we are in a tie was good for us,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said. “We’re still in a good spot for playoffs and there are three or four teams fighting for that last spot. We can’t afford to lose any points.”

The top four VOL teams advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, and Sierra leads Oakdale by two points from the No. 2 spot. Manteca (4-4-1, 9-7-2) currently sits in fifth place.

Sierra controlled the action in the early parts of the first half until Manteca (4-4-1, 9-7-2) converted on its first shot attempt in the 22nd minute. Everardo Velasquez battled with a Sierra defender for a long ball into the penalty box, and after a deflection Aron Navarrette was there to knock in his team-high 16th goal of the season.

Goalie Saul Aguinaga (three saves) kept Sierra within reach late in the half. Navarrette stole the ball from Sierra defender Tarjei Hage and sent a cross to Cesar Torres, whose volley attempt was batted away by the charging Aguinaga.

The Timberwolves registered the tying goal in the final seconds of the half, as Carlos Mendez headed in the equalizer off a cross from Erick Ruvalcaba on a counter-attack.

“We’ve had a couple of those this year where we’ve given up a goal in the last minute of a half or the last minute of a game,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “Obviously that’s extremely disappointing, but I was proud of the way the guys played. I feel like we came out and couldn’t have played better. I couldn’t be more proud of the way my team played yet disappointed with the outcome, because I thought we just played really well today.”

Even without the services of injured sweeper Josh Kong and Ramon Rojas (yellow cards).

“It hurts to have two starters and two impact players out, but our guys stepped up,” Coenenberg said. “To be honest, I don’t think we missed a beat. We played awesome.”

Both teams had nice opportunities to jump ahead in the second half, but none better than Navarrette’s in the 75th minute. He was wide open on a breakaway but was unable to corral the bouncing ball, which skipped wide right of the goal with Aguinaga well off his line. Navarrette’s only play was to cross it, but Aguinaga recovered in time to snatch it away.

“I was trying to get it down,” Navarrette said. “The ball was running out and I was trying to get to it before it hit the touchline.

“We could have won,” he added. “It was a close game. We were missing starters but I thought we played pretty well.”



Sierra 4, Manteca 1

Adib Guedoir poured in a pair of goals, while Tristan Gonzalez and Mateo Garcia added one apiece for good measure.