In a season where the majority of things went the Manteca Buffaloes’ way, their final contest was a new experience, as they fell victim to their first shutout of the season in a 1-0 loss to Central Valley in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III semifinal Wednesday.
Manteca came out somewhat hesitant. Central Valley didn’t. The Hawks were aggressive and intent on forcing the issue on the offensive end. A combination of winning the majority of 50-50 balls, dominating possession and relentless attacking in the box gave Central Valley the clear-cut first half advantage. The game’s lone goal in the 34th minute came on the Hawks’ 12th first-half shot.
Senior Diego Duran hauled in a pass from Omar Orozco and made good on the close-range shot. The score looked to be the finished product of Central Valley’s non-stop attacking, yet it took the clock to get to the closing minutes of regulation before it appeared to be a game-winner.
“It was a really big one,” Duran said of his goal. “Right before I shot it I was real nervous, but it went in. It was nice that that was the goal to give us the victory to send us to finals.”
The Buffaloes’ inspired effort over the final 40 minutes was evident, but the club simply could not get anything going on the Central Valley end. Matching Central Valley’s early energy was not a problem for the Buffaloes, but turning scoring opportunities into a goal proved impossible.
“The difference was that they were a really great team,” Manteca keeper Abdiel Chiquito said. “They possess the ball very well and they can do just about everything. Our defense was playing well, but when you make a mistake they will capitalize.
“They had a nice shot on that goal.”
As challenging as it is to find any solace after a season-ending defeat, the Valley Oak League co-champion Buffaloes have nothing to hang their heads about. A talented Central Valley team atoned for an early-season loss to Manteca, substantiating the fact that it’s extremely difficult to beat a great team twice.
“I can say right now that we had a good season,” Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg said. “Obviously it’s hurting right now and the guys are hurting right now, but I’m very proud of the way we played. Not just this game but all season long. Especially being undefeated through preseason and the guys had the big target on their backs. We were really getting teams’ best effort all season.
“I’m disappointed in the loss, but not disappointed in the season.”