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Canales set to kick it in North Dakota
SOC Canales signing 1
Sierras Sydnee Canales signs her national letter of intent to attend Minot State on a soccer scholarship. Canales is flanked by her mother and father, Dan Canales and Denise Brierly, and joined by athletic director Anthony Chapman (back left), coach Ronnie Green (inside left), stepfather John Brierly (middle), coach Manuel Pires (inside right) and Principal Steve Clark.

One of the season’s indelible moments is of Sierra’s Sydnee Canales lacing a deep left-footed shot on goal to earn a draw at Oakdale.

On Tuesday afternoon, with family and her coaches watching, Canales struck with her left hand, signing her name on a national letter of intent.

The senior playmaker is headed to Minot State on a partial athletic scholarship in the fall, where she’ll play collegiate soccer for a familiar name in head coach Jason Spain.

Canalas was pointed toward Delta, but chose Minot State for its soccer and career opportunities. Along with having a renowned women’s soccer program, Minot State also fields a reputable nursing program.

“Before I wasn’t willing to go out of state,” she said, “but that (nursing) helped make my decision easier.”

The signing celebration, coupled with Monday evening’s awards banquet, marked the end of a productive prep career.

Canales played four seasons for varsity head coach Manuel Pires, appearing in 86 games. In each of the last two years, she’s finished with double-digit goals and assists. For her career, she’s totaled 110 points – 41 goals and 28 assists.

“She’s definitely a player that has the ability to score goals and help the teammates around her. She’s a hard player to shut down every game,” Pires said. “Every year, since she came to us as a freshman, she’s grown and played a big role for us.”

This season, Canales was as dangerous an offensive player as there was in the talent-rich Valley Oak League.

She was one of only three VOL players to produce at least 18 goals and 10 assists, joining East Union’s Isela Rivera (28 goals, 10 assists) and Kimball’s Abby Dyer (18/14), and finished fourth in total points.

Canales’ final numbers were worthy of the team’s MVP. She closed with 18 goals and 11 assists, including signature long-range strikes against Oakdale. Pires believes Canales’ pace and pin-point accuracy with her shot separated her from an elite class of attacking players.

“Every player has a different style of play. Not all players can shoot from that far and put the ball (on goal) with that kind of pace,” he added. “She can also play as a target and work the ball with another teammate up there, but from the outside, she’s very, very strong.”

Her shot has been honed in training and during a rigorous competition schedule with her club team, the Modesto Ajax.

“All of our training and all of our games have boosted my confidence in taking shots so far out,” she said. “I’ve built up my muscles so much that when I got to high school, I was confident I could take those shots.”

Now she heads north to Minot, N.D., riding a Manteca pipeline that has delivered the Division II school football and women’s soccer talent in the past.

Canales was recruited by Spain, who starred at Downey High and Modesto Junior College before embarking on a widely successful coaching career that has included stops in Yuba City and Minot.

Along the way, Spain has reached back into the Central Valley for talent. Two years ago, he recruited Manteca High’s Breanne Hatfield, now a junior defender.

“Knowing his style of play, I think she’ll fit in really well with that group,” Pires said. “He’s very structured. That’s why he likes to take players from our area. … I see her becoming more a student of the game – reading the play, making better decisions and taking better shots on goal.”

Canales will likely play as a target forward or attacking center midfielder for the Beavers, coming off their worst season in the program’s short history. Minot State went 7-8-3 and lost 5-2 in the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

“(Spain) said they’re really physical, so he thinks I’ll fit in really well with the program,” Canales said. “He said I have a pretty good chance at a starting spot if I work hard.

“I think it will be a good experience and I know I’ll learn a lot from the older girls and the coaches. I’m looking forward to it.”