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East Union remains in thick of VOL with win over Cougars
East Union’s Stephanie Sabala makes a move before heading towards the box during second-half action of the Lancers’ 3-0 win over Weston Ranch.

WESTON RANCH – ReAnna Schmitt raced the length of the East Union sideline, avoiding Weston Ranch defenders and navigating through traffic. She stopped on a dime and found a crossing Ode Castillo and the Lancers were up two goals minutes into the second half, on their way to a 3-0 Valley Oak League win Thursday.

East Union (4-0-2 VOL, 9-2-4) kicked into gear after the late first-half goal, continuing to fire shots on goal and never giving the Cougar defenders an opportunity a second to relax. The Lancers outshot Weston Ranch 20-3, giving the potent offense ample time to find the back of the net.

“That is probably our biggest issue,” East Union assistant coach Natalia DaSilva said. “We have so many shots, that we can’t put them in. Our girls do so well passing the ball and getting it up there, that we have to work on doing a better job of scoring on our shots.

“When we do score a goal we definitely get some motivation.”

The two clubs battled to a scoreless tie through the majority of the second-half, but Weston Ranch goalie Mayra Ambriz finally got touched in the 38th minute, forfeiting a priceless first-half effort that saw the senior keeper thrive under a barrage of East Union firepower. Her effort was clearly the reason Weston Ranch had a chance heading into the final 40 minutes.

“In my honest opinion I think she is one of the best keepers in the league,” Cougar head coach Carlos Gaspar said. “When a keeper can play the way she did today, hurt, that is impressive.

“Every time she dove she got up a little slower; she’s really an amazing goalie.”

The Lancers closed out their scoring when Stephanie Sabala beat her defender and lofted a beautiful touch shot over the outstretched hands of Ambriz. Weston Ranch’s standout goal-scorer Wafa Hafed was harassed constantly, picking herself up off the pitch and battling for scoring chances for 80 minutes.

East Union executed a solid game plan for Hafed, keeping her off the scoreboard and minimizing her impact on the contest by allowing her no shots on goal.

“What it comes down to is, they know exactly who to mark,” Gaspar said. “They know her, they know what she can do, and they did a good job of shutting her out of the game.”

In a game that displayed some of the league’s premier scorers, the Lancers backfield defenders highlighted some of their offensive prowess. Getting quality production on both ends of the pitch from Kianna Lamont and of course Schmitt, East Union showed a valuable dose of versatility.

“We definitely trust everybody when it comes to handling the ball,” daSilva said. “Our team knows that when a defender carries the ball up that we have to drop somebody back. We know that we can pass to anybody on the team anywhere on the field.

“Every girl on this team trusts everybody.”

The Lancers have set themselves up for a monumental matchup with VOL frontrunner Manteca High on Thursday, but first East Union will have to take care of a struggling Central Valley program Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Manteca 3, Sonora 0

SONORA – The Buffaloes gave themselves something to be proud of, taking sole possession of first place in the VOL weighed in a close second.

Manteca (5-1, 11-3-1) earned a victory that its senior class had never experienced, setting the team up for an intense late-season push with one of its more meaningful victories in the past four seasons.

“No matter how good or bad Sonora is, it is always tough to play up there,” Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg said. “This was actually a huge win for all the girls on the team because it’s the first time any girl on the team has beaten Sonora in soccer.

“Our seniors like Rileigh (Mankin), Yesenia (Rodriguez), Abigail (Rosas) had never beaten Sonora, so they were pretty stoked.”

Mankin did her best to make it happen, scoring a goal and assisting on both of the Buffaloes other scores. Mankin notched her goal in the game’s third minute, banging home a direct from 5 yards outside the box. Sammie Morris tallied a goal in the 41st minute, while Sialei Manuleleua closed out the scoring with a goal in the 47th minute.

Manteca will try and keep the stretch-run of the VOL schedule in perspective, yet maximize its opportunity to turn in a special season.

“We’re just taking it game by game right now,” Coenenberg said. “We’re not looking too far ahead. I try to keep the girls focused on our upcoming game, but of course we are definitely aware that we have a tough week coming ahead of us.”

 The Buffaloes will learn a lot about themselves in their next two contests, rolling out the welcome mats for Oakdale on Tuesday and traveling to Dino Cunial Field for a match with the East Union Lancers.

Manteca 3, Sonora 0

SONORA – The Buffaloes built a 1-0 halftime lead and never relinquished their grasp, handling Sonora with ease for the VOL win Thursday.

Jasmine Odell, Samantha Greiman and Amara Michaelis all scored goals for a Buffaloes squad that held Sonora to just four shots on goal in the contest.

— Jagada Chambers