Freshman Leah Manuleleua reached out for sister Sialei’s right hand and wrapped an arm around her shoulders as the two walked off gusty Guss Schmiedt Field Tuesday night.
That was among their final moments together as members of the Manteca High girls soccer team. Needing a win to guarantee a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, the Buffaloes were dealt a season-ending 3-0 loss by crosstown foe East Union.
Sialei is one of eight Manteca seniors who played their final high school game Tuesday. She, midfielder Taylor Teixeira and forward Sammie Morris, the program’s all-time leading scorer, are four-year varsity players.
“Those are girls that were with me all four years, and it’s been a pleasure coaching them,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “Hopefully they’ve grown as players in their time here. They have some great memories to take with them.”
For East Union (11-1-2 Valley Oak League, 18-1-2 overall), the win was a big statement going into the postseason. The second-place Lancers were able to knock off a talented Manteca team by the same margin (4-1) as their April 2 meeting with several starters missing. The dynamic sister combo of Isela and Isabella Rivera quit the team last week, and sophomore defender Alivia LeMay is out with an ankle injury.
They have also been without Regina Dias all season. The junior playmaker tore knee ligaments in last year’s regular-season finale against Manteca and hasn’t returned to the pitch since.
“We’ve lost a couple of players but we have depth on the bench,” East Union coach Jim Todd said. “Those girls are excited because now they get to contribute more than they had been earlier in the year.”
Coenenberg didn’t notice a difference.
“It looks like they haven’t lost much,” he said.
East Union cashed in on its first two opportunities of the match in the third and 10th minutes. Erica daSilva delivered the first goal with a free kick from about 40 yards out. Later, Kayla Lamont centered a perfect cross to freshman Isabella Cardenas from the left corner. Cardenas put it away with a strong left-footed blast.
Madeline Yslava recorded the back-breaking third goal in the 64th minute, heading in daSilva’s corner-kick cross.
“We played really strong as a team,” Lamont said. “I’m happy with how we performed. It was a good win.”
East Union played masterfully with a heavy wind to its back in the first half, and in the second the defense — led by Rachel Sianez and Kianna Lamont in the middle — did well to limit Manteca’s opportunities.
Morris had the best look for Manteca (8-5-1, 16-8-1). Katie Locke lofted a through ball into the box in the final minute of the first half, and Morris was the first to it behind the East Union defense. Sianez challenged her shot with a sliding tackle, and it was lifted harmlessly over the crossbar.
“It’s definitely hard to swallow,” Coenenberg said of missing the playoffs. “In the beginning of the year you set goals, and this was a team we thought was a league and playoff contender. That’s the VOL for you. It’s so stacked that you have to bring it every game and you can’t slip up.”
First-time champion Kimball, East Union and Oakdale qualify out of the VOL. The first round is scheduled for next Tuesday, May 7.
Weston Ranch 1, Sierra 0
Sierra (5-7-2 VOL, 9-9-4 overall) failed to convert on its 21 shot attempts, while the Cougars (3-11, 4-12) made good on one of their few chances to score a big upset in the final game of the season.
Kimball 3, Lathrop 0
The VOL champion Jaguars (13-0-1 VOL, 21-0-1 overall) capped the regular season without a loss, getting goals from Maya Lopez, Abby Dyer and Caitlyn Rodriguez.
Lathrop finishes winless in league, and 4-19-2 overall. Edna Magana and Callia Morales-Linnell combined for 17 saves at goal.
Manteca 4, East Union 3
The Buffaloes ruined lower-level champion East Union’s bid for a perfect run through league with Tuesday’s upset win.
Cecily Gallardo provided the game-winning goal in the second half after the two rivals took a 3-3 tie into the break. Gallardo ended up with two goals, while Allison Rachels and Fechi Nkwocha each chipped in one.
Atalie Cardenas scored twice for East Union, finishing the year with 20 goals. Alexis Phillips netted the other.