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Sierra bounces back from loss with rivalry win
Sierra striker Joanna Ortiz heads the ball downfield in front of Manteca High’s Samantha Grieman in the first half of Wednesday’s crosstown soccer match at Manteca’s Guss Schmiedt Field. - photo by HIME ROMERO
It took a little over 10 minutes for Sierra High standout Joanna Ortiz to make her presence felt, and when she did she didn’t stop. Putting together a first-half hat trick to lift the Timberwolves over the host Manteca Buffaoloes 3-1 Wednesday in Valley Oak League play.

Sierra (1-1 VOL, 6-2-2 overall) came into the contest on the heels of a disheartening outcome in the league opener against Oakdale, but used the domiant play of Ortiz to put together a near-perfect first 40 minutes.

Ortiz got going in the 11th minute when she dribbled to the center of the field from the left sideline, escaping three different groups of defenders and drilling a beautiful shot towards the top-right post for a 1-0 lead. She would add her second just four minutes later and the final in the 28th minute, securing the Sierra win before halftime.

“We moved the ball really, really well and a lot of players moving with different runners and finding the places to deliver the ball,” Sierra head coach Manuel Pires said. “Obviously, Joanna had a great game here today. She put herself in position to score those goals and she did what she can do best – finding the back of the net.”

Manteca (1-2, 7-4-1) found themselves in trouble by the intermission, yet it was not like the Buffaloes’ perdiciment was self-induced. The Buffaloes were in position with Ortiz in each of her goals, but being mere inches away from her was simply too much room to cover.

“I didn’t think we played a bad first half,” Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg said. “There were just some big mistakes that cost us. We knew Ortiz was good, but talk about being dead-on tonight.

“In the first half on her three shots, she had three goals.”

Like any great player who happens to find themselves locked in, Ortiz knew that it was her match. The third goal was most impressive, as she displayed blistering speed in a foot race along the visiting sideline only to get off a booming kick from just inside the box that was only going to be stopped by the inside of the goal netting.

“It was really important for me to have a good game, because we are coming off of a loss,” Ortiz said. “We had some difficulty bouncing back, but we played good. All of us worked together and that’s how I scored my three goals. When I got the ball (third goal) I was thinking this has to go in.

“I was looking straight to the left corner and I said ‘Let’s go’, and I took the shot and it went in.”

The Buffaloes were able to find some solace in winning the second half, holding the Timberwolves scoreless and avoiding being shut out for only the second time this season when Sammie Morris made good on a shot assisted by Airenne Curry.

Sierra’s win puts the squad back on track and leaves the Buffaloes looking for a turnaround in VOL play. With the season still in its beginning stages, time is not an issue to turn things around, but with the competitive climate of the VOL, no squad wants to find iteself looking up at the pack.

“Every game in the VOL season is a big game,” Pires said. “This is still early obviously, and there are still a lot of games to play, but we really have to control our own destiny. We can’t depend on someone else to win or lose in order for us to make it.

“To come out here against a very good team and get a win is huge for us.”