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Buff Cup tourney kicks off today
Competition reaches new heights with expansion to 12-team field
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2013 Buff Cup


Participating teams: Manteca, Orestimba, Ripon Christian, Vacaville, Lathrop, University, Liberty Ranch, Oakdale, Millennium, Atwater, Riverbank, Colfax.

Group play: Today, starting noon

Tourney play: Saturday, starting 9:30 am.

Championship: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

Manteca High’s annual girls soccer tournament promises to be as rough and tough as its name would indicate.

The two-day Buff Cup gets under way on Friday with a full slate of games across four groups at Woodward Park. The semifinal round and trophy matches will be played on Saturday.

The lineup is predictably top heavy, with a collection of playoffs teams, one section champion and a list of must-see talent. The defending champion – Colfax High – also returns.

Manteca High coach Justin Coenenberg takes pride in the bracket, which has expanded from a tournament-style, eight-team field. In no time at all, he’s given this relatively young preseason tournament a playoff feel.

He outdid himself with Group C, far and away the Buff Cup’s deepest and most unpredictable grouping.

Group C features two Sac-Joaquin Section playoff teams, including the tournament’s only section champion, and a perennial Valley Oak League title contender.

None of the other three groups can boast those credentials.

Group C is topped by Millennium of Tracy, the defending Central California Athletic Association and Division VII champion. The Falcons won 14 of their 17 games a year ago and return their top two scorers in sophomores Ivy Torres (14 goals, seven assists) and Anneliese Bradley (10 goals, seven assists).

Liberty Ranch of Galt also advanced to the postseason, where it was knocked out in the first round of the Division IV tournament by Central Catholic, a team that shocked VOL champion East Union in a penalty kick shootout days later.

Oakdale is the sleeper among the bunch and could ride the scoring touch of Jill Kahler into the semifinal round. Kahler led the Mustangs with 23 goals and four assists in 2012.

Manteca’s path to the semifinals isn’t as daunting.

The Buffaloes, who boast a college-caliber attacking line in forwards Sialei Manuleleua and Sammy Morris, open the tournament on Friday against Orestimba and Ripon Christian.

Orestimba is 2-0, but coming off a 1-12 campaign. Ripon Christian will be a threat to win the Southern League championship, but will be short-handed for the tournament while its basketball team continues its postseason run.

Manteca is 3-0 with shutout wins over regional rival Ripon, Bear Creek and Hughson. The Buffaloes have outscored their opponents 11-0.

The Buffaloes’ first test of the season could come in Saturday morning’s semifinal round, where they may find themselves in a rematch of last year’s opening game.

University will be the heavyweight in Group B, a grouping that also includes Vacaville and Lathrop.

The San Francisco-power is coming off an 18-5-3 season that began with a 2-1 loss to Manteca at the Buff Cup. University graduated only four players from that squad.

Atwater, Riverbank and Colfax make up Group D. Colfax is the defending tournament champion.