Everything appears to be falling into place for Manteca High’s suddenly-hot boys soccer team.
Giovanni Marin had a touch in every goal scored, and the Buffaloes earned their third straight Valley Oak League win Monday with a commanding 4-0 victory that knocks visiting Sonora further from the playoff race.
“This was a huge game for us,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “We’re at a point now in the season where the mistakes we made in the first half (of league) can’t be made now, but I think we’re playing better every game.”
Marin connected with freshman Alex Hernandez on a nice 1-2 combination play from the left corner that freed up Hernandez for the game’s first goal in the fourth minute. In the 13th minute, Marin had two point-blank shots deflected by Sonora goalkeeper Cayden McLaughlin, but Gabe Zamudio was there to clean it up for the goal.
It was a dominant first-half effort for Manteca (7-2-2, 11-4-3 overall), which fired 10 of 13 shots on frame. Marin converted his goals in the second half — the first on a header from a pass from Carlos Belmonte in the 44th minute. His next goal 12 minutes later was all him, as he stripped a defender of the ball and immediately blew it past McLaughlin from the 18-yard line.
“We’ve been preparing good for our games,” said Marin, noting the big matchups ahead against Oakdale and rival East Union on the final week of the season. “We’re trying to go for the championship.”
Manteca’s recent run has vaulted it into second place in league. Before last Wednesday’s 4-1 stunner at Sierra, the Buffaloes were holding onto the third position — the VOL takes the top three squads to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs — with several others, including Sonora (4-5-2, 7-11-2), nipping at their heels.
Since losing at Oakdale 3-0 on Sept. 28 Manteca outscored its next five opponents, 19-5.
Coenenberg credits the Buffaloes’ improved defensive play, but they’ve made huge strides on the attacking third after struggling there in nonleague action.
“Gio had a big game, but we’re getting more guys involved offensively,” he said. Earlier in league we only had like five goal scorers, now we’re up to 11. We’re getting more people involved from different players and from different positions.”
East Union 3, Oakdale 1
Putting their best player on offense did wonders for the VOL-leading Lancers (8-1-2, 10-7-2), who trailed 1-0 by halftime at Dino Cunial Field.
Four-year varsity player Cruz Hernandez scored the go-ahead and insurance goals. Victor Garibay blasted in the equalizer.
With three games remaining, EU can clinch at least a share of the title with two wins. The Lancers end the season against second-place Manteca, which trails by three points.
Sierra 5, Kimball 3
Nico Gonzalez recorded a hat trick with three second-half goals (46th, 65th, 66th minutes) to help the host Timberwolves (6-2-3, 12-4-3) overcome a 3-2 halftime deficit.
Jose Acosta put Sierra ahead in the sixth minute with a right-to-left bender on a set piece, and Amir Guedoir struck in the 26th minute for a 2-1 lead.
Weston Ranch 2,
Needing a win to keep its slim postseason hopes alive, host Lathrop (3-5-3, 9-9-4) dropped a heartbreaker despite a dominant effort in the second half.
Weston Ranch (2-9) did all of its damage in the first stanza, with standout David Molina contributing a goal.
Ripon Christian 5, Turlock Christian 2
The Knights (2-8-1, 6-11-1) had five different goal scorers contribute to the team’s most productive offensive game of the season at home Monday.
Scoring were Christian Manes, Max Koetsier, Kyle Mailhot, Danny Vander Molen and Nathan Hekman. Kyle Van Vuren added two assists, while Manes and Vander Molen had one apiece.
“It was encouraging to see so many of my players involved in the offense today,” said RC coach Keith Terpsma. “We’ve been struggling to make a run toward goal, and this game showed us what we can do.”