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Sierra-Manteca rivalry plays to another draw
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Manteca Highs Leah Manuleleua battles with Sierra Highs Daisy Rivera for a ball during Tuesdays 1-1 draw at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Sydnee Canales and Leah Manuleleua bumped and banged, pushed and shoved, jostling for every ball that traveled through the middle of the field.

Manteca sweeper Jocelyn Reyes booted a ball off her goal line, while Sierra goalie Emma Broderick returned the favor in the final seconds.

The sophomore goalie thwarted a breakaway attempt with a sliding kick save, snuffing out the stoppage-time opportunity.

On a rain-slicked pitch, one of the Valley Oak League’s most intense and evenly matched rivalries played to a familiar result: a 1-1 draw.

Kaleigh Doyle pushed Sierra ahead midway through the first half, but the Timberwolves were burned by Leah Manuleleua’s free kick in the 56th minute. 

“It was just another one of those games,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “I don’t feel that we played all that well. Give (credit) to Manteca; they looked like the team that was more prepared to win.”

Only they didn’t.

For the fourth time in four seasons, Sierra and Manteca left the pitch knotted in a tie.

This ranks among some of the wackier finishes, too.

With a 1-0 lead, Sierra (7-3-2, 2-1-1 VOL) appeared to be in control of the match early in the second half, but any momentum it had was halted by a loose wire.

Play was stopped for a few moments in the 56th minute following a foul just outside the Timberwolves’ 18-yard box.

Sierra coach Manuel Pires was called onto the field to help Broderick with her braces.  The goalie appeared in pain – gagging at times – but remained in the game.

The worst was yet to come.

Manuleleua curled a cross over the two-man wall and into the area in front of Broderick. With nary a Buffalo player in the vicinity, Broderick was in line for her easiest stop of the evening.

Or so it seemed.

The ball skipped off the rain-soaked grass and through Broderick’s legs for the equalizer.

Momentum belonged to the Buffaloes (9-1-1, 2-0-1), now unbeaten in their last four games.

“I’m pretty sure she was looking to play (the cross) in, but we wanted it on frame … in that range,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said.

Manteca turned up the pressure in the final minutes behind knifing runs by a pair of freshmen.

“At the end, you want to be the aggressors and pushing for the win,” Coenenberg said, “and I think we were the ones in that situation.”

Natalia Duran slipped behind the Sierra defense in the 76th minute, collecting a ball at the edge of the 18-yard box. She quickly mustered a shot, but it was pushed away by a charging Broderick.

Five minutes later, in stoppage time, Lejla Pepic turned on the jets.

Pepic entered the match with 11 goals in 10 games, but No. 12 would have to wait. She out-legged a Sierra defender to the through ball, but a heavy touch eliminated her scoring opportunity. Broderick (three saves) broke up the chance with yet another sliding stop.

“Yeah, my goalkeeper had a lot to do with their goal,” Pires said, “but she also made two great, outstanding saves at the end.”

The Timberwolves struck in the 24th minute on a feed from defensive midfielder Elise Barajas.

The converted sweeper lifted a ball over the Manteca defense to Doyle, who struck a left-footed shot inside the near post.

Pires praised the principles involved in the scoring sequence – Barajas to Doyle – but wishes he would have seen more of those combination plays.

“I’d like to see (Doyle) get more opportunities to do that,” Pires added. “That was a great play and it started with a great play from Elise. She won the ball and put ball in the perfect spot.”

Neither coach could escape the stadium on Tuesday evening without looking ahead to what could be an interesting playoff chase.

The Valley Oak League will be awarded three Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths.

While East Union (7-0, 4-0) has separated itself as the clear-cut favorite to win league, there is a three-team race – Manteca, Sierra and Kimball – brewing for the final two spots.

Tuesday’s result only heightens the drama.

“This much pretty much tells us this is going to be a dogfight ‘til the last game,” Pires said. “Hopefully, we’re in a position to take one of those spots.”

Added Coenenberg: “It’s going to be tight. It’s going to be close. It’s probably going to go right up to the end, with good teams competing for those playoff spots I think we’re good enough to be in the mix.”

The frosh-soph contest also ended in a 1-1 tie. Isabel Quintos accounted for Manteca’s goal.

Oakdale 6, Lathrop 1

In Oakdale, Sierra Downum tallied Lathrop’s only goal in the 41st minute off an assist from Yaneli Avila.

East Union 10,
Weston Ranch 1

Jenna Zuniga recorded a hat trick and Aly Lecce scored twice for the high-flying Lancers. Maddie Yslava, Ilena Rivera, Isela Rivera, Meghan Wallace and Taylor Rose chipped in goals for East Union, which led 8-0 at the half.

East Union won the frosh-soph game in a rout, 9-0. Rosalia Ravelo, Skyler Tracy and Whitney Moneyham each had two goals.

Southern League

Ripon Christian 8,

Le Grand 0

Abby Buitrago scored four goals for Ripon Christian (4-0 SL), which has outscored league opponents 33-1.