Manteca is on the road again and thankful to be making the trip.
That’s because the Buffaloes are making the program’s first CIF Northern California Regional Championships appearance in 27 years. They qualified by reaching the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinals. Until last season, only section finalists advanced to NorCals. Manteca was swept by King City in its previous NorCal match on Nov. 21, 1990.
Manteca (24-9) last played on Tuesday, Nov. 7, dropping a four-set match at top-seeded Sonora in the section semifinals. Sonora was then stunned by 10th-seeded El Dorado this past Saturday in five games.
“The good thing is we’re still playing,” Manteca coach Kevin Bolding said following the Sonora loss. “As long as we’re playing we have a chance. What more can we ask for?”
Seeded ninth for the NorCal Division IV bracket, his Buffaloes are travelling to No. 8 Liberty of Madera on Wednesday. Under the new Open Division format, qualifying teams are now divided into merit-based brackets instead of enrollment as in years past. Trans-Valley League and SJS Division IV champion Hilmar, for example, has been elevated to Division III for NorCals and is seeded eighth. El Dorado, Sonora and Christian Brothers are Nos. 10-12, respectively, in the same bracket.
Liberty (28-7) finished as the runner-up in both the North Sequoia League and Central Section Division IV playoffs. The Hawks were swept by small-schools powerhouse Immanuel in their section title match. They’re led by 6-foot middle Hannah Chase, a reigning NSL co-MVP, and setter Madison Devine.
The winner of Wednesday’s match likely heads to San Jose on Saturday to take on top-seeded Presentation (15-21), which was winless in the super-competitive West Catholic Athletic League. The Panthers went on to claim the Central Coast Section Division II crown and opens NorCals with No. 16 Pierce (25-11) of Arbuckle, a Northern Section Division IV semifinalist.
West Valley, which beat Pierce en route to winning the NS Division IV title, is seeded third and gets a first-round bye. North Coast Section Division IV runner-up Del Norte is the No. 2 seed.
Fellow SJS schools joining Manteca in the NorCal Division IV tournament are No. 7 Colfax, No. 11 Capital Christian and No. 12 Bret Harte. Colfax swept Capital Christian for the SJS Division V championship, while Bret Harte took second to Hilmar in Division IV.
The NorCal Regional Final takes place Nov. 21, with the State Championships set for Dec. 1-2 at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.