Joanna Roa no doubt had this visit to Ripon High’s Stouffer Field circled on the scheduled.
She attended the school last year but has since transferred to Manteca and is playing a big part in the Buffaloes’ hot start to the new season.
The sophomore forward scored three goals and assisted another all in the first half of the Manteca’s 5-3 non-league win Wednesday. Alexia Alva contributed two goals and an assist.
“I was really excited, really hyped,” she said. “I have a lot of friends on the team.”
Olivia Maragos had a role in all three of Ripon’s goals, scoring two of them while drawing a foul in the box to set up Madelyn Reedy’s penalty conversion.
“A little disappointing defensively that we gave up those three (goals), but that girl is tough,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “She’s a handful. Not only does she have great speed, but she has a motor, she never gives up and she just kind of barreled through us. We have to fix some things defensively.”
He otherwise doesn’t have any complaints over the Buffaloes’ 6-0 start to the season, and — defensive lapses notwithstanding — his squad pieced together another masterpiece with its movement off and on the ball.
“The last couple of weeks, we really have been focusing on our movement on the offensive third in practice, and I think it’s starting to show,” Coenenberg said. “We’ve looked good possessing the ball, knocking the ball around and creating space. The attack in the final third and the combinations is still in the works a little bit, but the girls starting to connect.”
Roa didn’t wait long to leave her mark.
Four minutes in, she received a pass from Alva and did not hesitate to pull the trigger after a skillful half turn from about 25 yards out, hitting the lower left corner of the net. She scored in similar fashion in the 27th minute to double Manteca’s lead.
“I know I have the power to shoot from outside the 18,” Roa said. “Sometimes the confidence isn’t there, but tonight I came in with all my confidence this game.”
Ripon answered on the ensuing kickoff, as Maragos dribbled past multiple Manteca defenders on a breakaway to score.
The Buffs quickly regained control two minutes later. Roa pressed the Ripon defense to force a turnover and delivered a short cross for Alva to put it away with a one-time blast.
They tacked on one more just before the end of the half. Freshman Kailee Jackson countered from the right flank and centered it to Sienna Jones, who took it to the near post before sending a negative cross for Roa to complete her hat trick and give Manteca a comfortable 4-1 cushion.
“We practice a lot on playing negative balls and one-touch finishing,” Roa said. “Sienna had the vision to find me and we had a good connection there.”
It was a dominant first half in which Manteca outshot Ripon, 11-2. The final tally was 16-6. The Buffaloes could have had an even wider lead by halftime if not for Ripon goalie Ellena Parenti-Gomez, who racked up six saves.
The Indians (2-2) are without sophomore center midfielder Kaiya Kroutil this season after she tore an ACL at a college showcase.
“We’re really missing her,” Ripon coach Bryce Perkins said. “We’re experimenting with the mids right now and rotating a whole bunch of people there. We lost two of our (starting) mids last year and then we lost Kaiya, so we have a whole new midfield. We’re experimenting to see what the right combination is.”
Ripon also dropped its previous match 3-1 to Gregori, marking the first time it has lost back-to-back since losing to the same to teams last year.
Despite the results, Perkins is encouraged with his young group as it prepares more stiff competition this weekend at Sierra’s Vern Gebhardt Champions Cup.
“I’m really happy with them, so far,” Perkins said. “We scheduled a pretty tough preseason, and it’s one right after the other. We’ve got the Vern Gebhardt next, and we follow that up with East Union and then it’s Liberty Ranch right after that. There’s not a whole lot of relief. It’s testing us, and that’s OK.”