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Manteca edges Sierra in 5 sets to clinch outright VOL title
Manteca-Sierra boys volleyball
Santino Flores of Sierra gets his spike through the Manteca block of Mark Bondoc (14) and Rob Hevener (3). - photo by SEAN KAHLER

 Manteca’s reign in the Valley Oak League continues, as the Buffaloes secured sole possession of the championship Wednesday with their hard-earned 25-20, 17-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-12 win at rival Sierra.

The Buffaloes (8-1 VOL, 17-3 overall) clinched the outright crown with one league match remaining — Monday against visiting Oakdale — after having to share it with Sierra (6-3, 20-8) last year.

Overall, it’s the third straight VOL championship for Manteca and the fifth in its six years of existence. The 2020 and 2021 seasons were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

As well as the Buffaloes — ranked eighth in the Sac-Joaquin Section by MaxPreps — have fared locally during this dynastic run, they’re eager to make some noise in the postseason to come.

“This year, I feel like our team is a lot more well rounded, and they (Sierra) also have a really good team,” Manteca middle blocker Aidan Patton said. “We definitely knew it was going to five sets. They played a good match, and we did, as well. I play with a lot of them in club, so it was good to (earn bragging rights).”

The 6-foot-8 senior was one of many impactful players for the Buffaloes on Wednesday, finishing with 10 kills and six blocks (five solo). Setter Mark Bondoc orchestrated the balanced attack, totaling 42 assists. He also produced three blocks, two aces, 12 digs and 20 service points.

Micah Crawford was a spark off the bench. He did not enter the match until the third set and still managed to tie Patton for team-high honors with 10 kills.

“Micah came up huge,” Manteca coach Jennifer Reis said. “Against (East Union on Monday), he didn’t even play because our other guys were hot. With my three outside hitters, it’s just a matter of who is hot that night and go with it.

“Micah was out last year because he had to have shoulder surgery, so he missed a year of reps, but he just comes through in the clutch. He’s just an athletic guy who is a competitor.

Rob Hevener (three kills, five blocks), Jesus Gomez (four kills, 10 digs, three aces), Cedrick Maglinao (17digs), Julio Mateo (nine kills, three blocks) and Garrison Reis (eight kills, 17 digs) were other key contributors.

Reis caught fire late, drilling three kills early in fifth set to help Manteca establish a 7-3 lead.

“We have great passers, and Mark gave me perfect sets for me to swing away and get those kills,” Garrison Reis said.

The Buffs, in fact, scored five of the first six points of the final set.

It has been a recurring theme for Sierra all season, having to climb itself out of holes. The Timberwolves tied it at 8-8 and kept themselves in the hunt in the final moments thanks to a block from standout middle Owen Altadonna and a kill from Santino Flores. A hitting error from Sierra was the final play of the match.

“We did well coming back a lot of times today,” Sierra coach Danielle Deerinck said. “Fifth set was a really slow start and I was worried because that’s a very short set, but we were able to come back and tied it back up. We just let up a little bit, and you can’t do that against a team like Manteca.”

Sierra seemed to have all the momentum going into Game 4 after rallying late to take the second and third sets. In the second, Yatharth Katyal and Altadonna combined for a kill, and setter Primo Estandarte put away the final two points with a dump and an ace.

The Timberwolves battled just to stay competitive for much of the third set but pounced in the end to steal it. Trailing 23-21, they scored the final four points with three of them coming from Altadonna kills.

“Volleyball is unlike any game — when that momentum swings, it swings pretty hard,” Coach Reis said. “When those games end it’s like a restart, so I was really proud of the guys in the fourth. It would have been real easy to fold and get frustrated and start to turn on each other, but none of that happened.

Manteca again led for most of the fourth game and was able to trade points the rest of the way after staking a 16-11 advantage on Mateo’s dink.

Altadonna led all players with 16 kills, while Estandarte netted 41 assists, four kills, two blocks and five digs.

Flores chipped in with nine kills and eight digs, Landon West racked up eight kills, Gurpreet Singh had five kills and five blocks, and Bonpatrick Estrella collected 17 digs.

Sierra was plagued all match by missed serves, finishing with 18. Manteca had 10 serving errors.

“That is something we have been talking about since the first match of the season,” Deerinck said. “We can’t fight so hard for these sideouts and then have a serving error. It’s tough when that happens.”

Sierra still has an opportunity to make a deep postseason run after capping the regular season next Monday at Central Catholic. Manteca plays Ripon Christian in a non-league at home Friday before its VOL finale.

“I told them this was a tough loss, but this was a good match,” Deerinck said. “Matches like that are going to prepare us for playoffs. We’re going to have to look at this match and keep finding areas where we need to improve offensively and defensively.”

Junior varsity

Sierra 2, Manteca 0

Sierra held on for the 25-20, 25-22 win.

Seban Thomas led the Timberwolves with four kills and six digs. Arhpreet Gosal also had four kills to go with two aces. Manolo Asuncion dished out 12 assists, and Kevin Gracia had 17 digs.

Dennen Loureiro compiled seven kills and seven digs for Manteca. Donovan Morse contributed four blocks, and Hayden Silva distributed 10 assists.