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MENDIOLA CLASSICO: Buffs gain valuable experience against stiff competition
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Manteca’s three-game boys soccer winning streak was snapped over the weekend in the Gold Pool of the Ervin Mendiola Classico tournament, hosted by East Union at Woodward Park on Friday and Saturday.

“Results withstanding, we learned the importance of defensive continuity and discipline, and know we've got to get better possessing the ball,” Buffaloes coach James Burns said. “This experience gave us a glimpse of what it will take to compete in the Valley Oak League.”

Manteca (3-6-1) faced its toughest stretch of opponents in the two-day tournament, falling to perennial playoff teams in Lodi, Lathrop, and Downey of Modesto. Manteca's only result was against Los Banos, a scoreless draw to start Saturday's slate.

After a rough opening day that saw losses of 7-0 to Lodi and 5-1 to Downey, captain Fernando Lopez, one of the team's top scorers, and sophomore call-up Mateo Esparza helped steady Manteca defensively in a 0-0 draw with Los Banos. Senior Johan Galarza also shined in a new role, stepping into the defensive midfield. Alberto Gutierrez was in frame against the Tigers and that was the first shutout of the season for the Buffaloes.

Manteca closed the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Lathrop. Lopez tallied the Buffaloes’ only goal on the weekend in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to Downey. Senior Yhair Martinez had a team-high four shots on the weekend for Manteca. 

The tournament marked the end of a busy week for the Buffaloes, who played six games in five days. They will travel to Johansen on Wednesday and will have more than a week to prep for their own two-day Buff Cup beginning Friday, Dec. 15.

“The boys leveled up on tired legs, and it got the best of them on Friday,” Burns said. “Kudos to them for bouncing back today and really pushing two of the Western Athletic Conference's best. We're grateful for the invite, because we got a taste of the playoff level. Hopefully it motivates and inspires the boys.”