There won’t be third meeting between rivals Manteca and Sierra in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Valley Oak League champion Manteca (21-2-1) is the No. 1 seed in Division III, while the runner-up Timberwolves (22-0-5) are the top dogs in Division IV because of their lower enrollment. In Division V, 2015 finalist Ripon (18-5) is seeded third. Ripon Christian (16-6-1) will compete in Division VI for the first time after claiming the last two D-VII titles. The Knights are also a No. 3 seed.
Manteca is the only area postseason qualifier still in search of its first girls soccer pennant. The Buffaloes are 0-4 in section titles matches and reached the last two Division III finals, including a 2-0 loss to East Union — another cross-town foe — in 2015. The march to a possible third straight final-round appearance begins next Thursday against No. 16 Ceres (12-5-1), which placed third in the Western Athletic Conference.
“This is kind of different for us,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “We’ve had to climb our way to the top the last couple of years, and it does feel pretty good and pretty rewarding to get the top seed. Obviously, home-field advantage is nice to have. We’re excited about it.”
Both Coenenberg and Sierra coach Manuel Pires would have liked to have gotten another crack at each other, though. Pires’ Timberwolves took second in the VOL despite handing Manteca its only league loss after previously battling the Buffaloes to a 1-1 tie.
“I knew there was a chance Sierra would be Division IV,” Coenenberg said. “Part of me wanted another shot to play them again, but maybe two schools can bring home section titles.”
The drop in division does not mean a drop in competition for Sierra.
Included in Division IV is sixth-seeded Central Catholic, which played the Timberwolves to a 3-3 draw earlier in the season. They have a first-round bye and await the winner of No. 8 Foothill (12-7-5) and No. 9 West Campus (8-8-1) next Thursday.
“We’re happy we got the top seed, but there are definitely going to be some tough games in Division IV,” Pires said. “When you start looking at the top four or five teams, it doesn’t matter which division, they’re all real solid. I’m glad we get a bye to recover a little bit. That’s a good thing for us.”
Ripon faces a familiar opponent in its Division V opener. The two-time defending Trans-Valley League champion will welcome sixth-seeded Linden (10-7-4) to Stouffer Field for a second time this season. The Indians defeated Linden 2-0 in a nonleague match March 17.
“That was a long time ago, it seems, but it saves some research time for me,” Ripon coach Jamie DeBruyn said.
DeBruyn hoped for a higher seed but isn’t surprised by getting the third spot. Reigning section champ Amador is at No. 1 and beat Ripon 2-0 in last year’s finale. No. 2 Capital Christian of Sacramento is a newcomer in this bracket after winning the previous two banners in Division VI.
Ripon Christian is also moving on up. Winners of the past four Southern League championships, the Knights won’t have any gimmies in the tougher Division VI. At the top of the bracket is TVL runner-up Modesto Christian, which has 4-0 and 1-0 nonleague wins over Ripon Christian. The Knights have history with much of the teams in Division VI including its first-round opponent No. 6 Forest Lake Christian (10-5-1), which lost to them 1-0 in the 2015 Division VII final.
“We knew that with the new rules we could go up if we win league, and it’s something we’re excited about — a good challenge for us,” Ripon Christian coach Kevin Tameling said. “Our first game is a rematch of our Division VII final and it’s going to be a very competitive game. Every game is going to be a tough game, so we have to be ready to play one game at a time.”