Like a cat toying with a mouse.
With No. 2 Sierra clinging to a one-goal second-half lead, Cal-commit and Timberwolves standout Jadyn Shinn took a through ball from Tiana Cello off to the side of the Chico net. With two defenders on her plus the goalie, Shinn tapped left and then right, tying up the Panthers defenders before blasting the ball in the net.
The Timberwolves went on to handle No. 7 Chico 3-0 Tuesday in opening-round CIF NorCal Division III Regional Championship action at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium in rainy, sloppy conditions. Sierra (28-2-2) set a new program record for most wins in a season and will now host No. 6 Branson of Ross on Thursday. Branson upset No. 3 Sacred Heart Prep, 1-0.
“We came out fired up,” Shinn said. “We won the section finals and we know that wasn’t the end and there’s more to come so we just came out really strong and everyone played a part.
“This is our home field and a lot of people came out to support even in the rain. We just played with our heart.”
The Timberwolves got on the board in the 27th minute when Cello’s cross deflected off the Panthers goalie to Yasmin Ballew who found the net for a 1-0 led.
“’T’ (Cello) made a really good run and made the cross and I saw an opening, got my foot on it and got it in the net,” Ballew said. “I was in the right place at the right time.
“This is super exciting. This has been our goal since the beginning of our freshman year so it has been four years in the making. We are super excited about progressing to Thursday’s game.”
Already in on the first two goals, Cello got one of her own in the 64th minute when Preeya Singh fired a shot that deflected off the Chico goalie to a waiting Cello who read things right and blasted it in the net to make the score 3-0.
“So, the ball got played out wide and I was sitting in the back post waiting for a cross,” Cello said. “Preeya (Singh) took the shot and I read the ball, made the run to the ball and finished it in.”
Fresh off his fifth Sac-Joaquin Section championship, Sierra coach Manuel Pires was thrilled to take the fight to the next level.
“This feels awesome,” Pires said. “To have the opportunity to be in this position and get out of here with the win is just awesome.
“Our captains (Shinn, Ballew and goalie Callie Crain, all seniors) have battled all year and Ballew got the first goal in this NorCal event. Both teams struggled to play in these conditions on this grass field that is not the best but it was a good battle all the way through. I’m really happy we are moving on.”
Crain posted five saves in her clean-sheet effort and the Timberwolves outshot the Panthers (20-3-1) 16-11.
Kickoff on Thursday will be at 4 p.m. at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.