No one drew a tougher assignment to start the Valley Oak League boys soccer season than Manteca.
The same could be said of its opponent, Oakdale, the league’s defending champion that hosted the 2013 runner-up on Monday.
Manteca prevailed 3-2 thanks to Jason Maravilla’s left-foot volley with about 7 minutes remaining. It was a hard-earned victory for the Buffaloes (1-0, 5-1-1 overall), who were outshot 21-10.
“It wasn’t pretty, they were bringing it against us,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “We actually capitalized on our opportunities which is something we hadn’t been doing.
“Oakdale is always tough, especially at their home. It feels good to get that win out of the way but at the same time we have to make sure we build off of it, use it as a stepping stone.”
The final 7 minutes were stress-free for the Buffaloes as they held up well on the defensive end. That wasn’t the case the first two times they jumped ahead.
Marcus Montano’s half-volley attempt set up by Ramon Rojas’ cross settled into the back of the net in the 29th minute. Less than a minute later, Zac Barnum headed in the equalizer for the Mustangs (0-1, 5-3-3).
“We were still in celebration mode, I guess,” Coenenberg said.
Montano struck again in the 50th minute with a direct kick. Jose Becerra knotted it back up just three minutes later.
The one constant for Manteca was the effort of Rojas, a reserve center midfielder who gave Manteca a lift.
“He came off the bench and was a workhorse for us,” Coenenberg said. “It’s always a physical game in Oakdale, but he did a great job of bodying up and dishing off quick passes to keep the offense moving for us.”
Manteca has a shorter trip to make Wednesday but expects another tug-of-war battle against crosstown rival Sierra.
East Union 2, Central Catholic 1
At Dino Cunial Field, the Lancers (1-0, 3-0-1) were ahead 2-0 at halftime but struggled to expand the lead while holding on for the win.
Humberto Andrade and Gerardo Romero scored in the 13th and 30th minutes. East Union missed on many golden opportunities, including a second-half penalty kick. Winless Central Catholic sliced its deficit in half in the 67th minute.
“We dominated pretty much the whole game, but we need to work hard on finishing,” East Union coach Victor Polanco said.
Weston Ranch 5, Kimball 0
In Stockton, Kevin Medina netted two goals and an assist as the Cougars (1-0, 8-2-3) blanked Kimball (0-1, 1-7-1) in their VOL opener.
Alex Gonzales, Francisco Monroy and Francisco Garcia added a goal apiece. Arthur Garcia and Hector Maldonado each contributed an assist.