STOCKTON — Forget that Sierra High lost out on bragging rights for the Valley Oak League title this season to Oakdale.
The Timberwolves got their revenge and were perfectly happy to bring the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title banner - the fourth in program history - home from Stockton on Saturday instead.
In a fast-paced physical battle at Alex G. Spanos Stadium on the campus of Lincoln High in Stockton, the Timberwolves used an early second half score to earn the biggest victory of their season, winning the Section crown by a 1-0 final over the Lady Mustangs of Oakdale.
“They were a group of warriors,” Sierra head coach Manuel Pires said of his players. “They grew up a lot this season and I told them, it’s not how you start that’s important … it’s how you finish.”
Sierra finished strong, handling Livingston 2-0 and topping Vista del Lago of Folsom in overtime, 2-1, in the first two rounds of the playoffs to earn the right to battle for the title.
Oakdale, which came in on the heels of grabbing its first ever VOL crown, lived through two tough contests on the way to the final, getting past Galt 2-1 in overtime and beating Central Catholic on penalty kicks (4-3) for a 2-1 win in the semifinal round.
First half action on Saturday saw the Timberwolves more often the aggressor, sending off a half dozen solid shots. One hit the top post and bounced straight down but away from the goal and Mustang keeper Morgan Kinyon gobbled it up. But the relentless pressure and first-to-the-ball play of the Timberwolves proved to be the difference in the contest, as they kept the push on to open the second half.
Junior striker Joanna Ortiz put the ball in the air and arced it over the Oakdale keeper about eight minutes in to the second half, taking the pass from senior Sydnne Koscielcki and sending it home.
“The difference today was our team really played focused,” said Pires. “We were very, very physical, our defense took everything away from them, they were not able to get many good shots.”
The Sierra defense held strong at the end, keeping Oakdale shots from reaching the keeper with some body blocks.
Pires also said the sustained pressure by his team, with Sierra always seeming to be on the attack, took its toll on the Lady Mustangs.
“This was a great game and they are a good team,” Pires said in tipping his trademark hat to Oakdale. “This was a special moment for our league, the VOL, I’m very proud.”
This was Sierra’s fourth Section title, the first once since 2004.
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