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Frosh standouts shine
Rivera scores one, assists two for EU
East Union freshman striker Meghan Wallace tries to connect for the header after Patterson goalkeeper Monique Garcia-Bradley blocked her initial shot in the first half of their Sac-Joaquin Section playoff game Thursday at Patterson Community Stadium. - photo by HIME ROMERO

PATTERSON — East Union freshman Isela Rivera was involved in all of the Lancers’ scoring plays in a 3-0 win over Patterson High Thursday, but she wasn’t the only youngster who shined at Patterson Community Stadium.

Patterson goalkeeper Monique Garcia-Bradley, also a freshman, recorded 13 saves and single-handedly kept her team within range until the final minutes of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff out-bracket contest. East Union (16-6-3) will next face Sierra Valley Conference champion Vista del Lago (14-1) on Tuesday in Folsom.

The Lancers had chances to make it real ugly real fast. They unleashed 25 shots to just five for Patterson (8-7-3), which had given up more than two goals in a single match just once during the regular season. 

Sophomore goalie Ashley Almeida notched her 12th shutout for East Union. None of Patterson’s shots were on frame, but Almeida did stuff a few threatening runs with aggressive play.

Patterson’s gritty shot stopper thwarted several point-blank opportunities, though Rivera got the better of Garcia-Bradley on a one-on-one breakaway set up by a through ball from Kayla Lamont in the 78th minute.

Rivera threatened again on a similar play following the midfield reset, but Garcia-Bradley dove to her left and deflected it away from danger.

“We could have scored a little more, but their goalie did a great job and had many amazing saves,” Rivera said. “Overall, we did what we had to do.”

And they did it in dominating fashion despite on playing FieldTurf. There is usually an adjustment period for teams that practice and play home games on grass, but the Lancers threatened to score on their first possession immediately after the opening kickoff.

Rivera said, “Playing on turf isn’t our thing,” but Patterson coach Cade Tomasegovich couldn’t tell.

“They are a really, really good team,” he said. “What I was concerned with the most about them was their speed, but they also showed tremendous ball control.”

Rivera assisted East Union’s first two goals.

In the 5th minute, Stephanee Sabala set up for the first of EU’s seven cornerkicks but caught the Patterson defense off guard by playing it short to Rivera. With Sabala fading toward the 18-yard line, Rivera crept her way into Patterson’s goal box before dishing it back to Sabala for an uncontested shot.

“Stephanee and I worked on it a lot in practice,” Rivera said. “We saw that they weren’t really aware of what we were doing, and it worked out good.”

Senior Megan Howley doubled the Lancers’ lead in the final minute of the first half, volleying her attempt off a quick touch pass from Rivera.

In East Union’s final Valley Oak League contest, a 3-1 loss at Manteca High, Howley reaggravated an ankle injury that sidelined her for 11 conference matches. The four-year varsity starter didn’t enter Tuesday’s contest until just moments before scoring her goal.

Howley and freshman forward Regina Dias (hamstring) played sparingly in the second half. With senior defender ReAnna Schmitt (knee) already out, freshman midfielder Taylor Rose and sophomore defender Katie Hilscher were called up from the frosh-soph team to add depth to a roster decimated by injuries all season.

“I probably shouldn’t have put Regina back in the game in the second half, but we were trying to get an insurance goal in,” East Union coach Jim Todd said. “We had to throttle back a little to save them both for our next game.”