The 0-0 outcome isn’t surprising.
Manteca High visited rival Sierra Wednesday for a Valley Oak League soccer match that featured two strong defenses, two top goalkeepers and two offenses struggling to find their groove.
The two sides came away with a different outlook on the result.
For Manteca (2-0-1, 9-3-2 overall), it was an opportunity lost. Coach Justin Coenenberg liked his Buffaloes’ chances against a Sierra squad that graduated much of its starters from last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship team.
“There were probably a lot of years where we would have been pretty happy to come out of here with a tie, but this year we really feel that we can beat them,” Coenenberg said.
The Timberwolves (1-0-1, 4-3-3), on the other hand, showed promise. They controlled most of the second half and outshot Manteca 6-1 — 7-4 overall — over the final 40-minute stanza.
“I’m very happy with the way our team responded in the second half,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “I thought we took it to them; we played mostly on their half of the field. Our team really stepped it up.”
Sierra mounted some nice runs throughout the second half. On one sequence, fleet-footed Naomi Nunis fed Sydnee Canales with a nice through ball, but Canales pushed her shot wide right.
Then in the 68th minute Nunis was presented with her own golden opportunity — a one-on-one against Manteca keeper Jimi Guibor. Nunis tried to chip it past the charging goalie, but Guibor did well to grab the ball while sliding feet first.
Guibor finished with four saves, and while Sierra’s Lia Unterholzner had none she was able to cut off several threatening crosses in the penalty area.
“They have an outstanding goalie and we have an outstanding goalie,” Pires said. “There were some key plays that both goalies made.”
None of Manteca’s shots were on frame, though it did have a few nice looks. None were better than Sialei Manuleleua’s in the sixth minute, when she broke away up the middle and bounced her shot off the left post.
“That’s kind of been our issue this year,” Coenenberg said. “We had our opportunities, and we’re struggling to put balls in the back of the net. It gets frustrating.”
A big reason for Manteca’s struggles on the attacking third is the absence of dynamic junior Sammie Morris, who scored 48 goals and assisted 19 others over her first two varsity seasons.
Morris has been out all season with an ankle injury, though she was cleared to make her 2012 debut in Monday’s 8-0 win over Weston Ranch. She scored a goal but played no more than 10 minutes.
“It’s clear she’s not quite ready yet,” Coenenberg said.
Manteca is off until next Monday when it plays host to Sonora, while Sierra heads to Oakdale Friday for a make-up match.
Sierra 3, Manteca 1
Stephanie Ochoa (25’), Kurstin Riley (32’) and Maira Cruz (62’) each scored for the Timberwolves (1-1, 9-3-1 overall).