Don’t write off Sierra High’s girls soccer team because of its record.
Yes, the 4-4 Timberwolves won’t match their incredible 26-1-2 finish from 2009.
Yes, they did graduate two of the area’s most prolific goal scorers, including All-American and program record-holder Nicole Vanni, and two all-league defenders.
And yes, they are still the ones to beat in the always-competitive Valley Oak League.
The Timberwolves’ .500 non-league finish can be more attributed to whom they played instead of how they played.
Two of those matches were one-goal losses to Turlock, which came from behind to win 3-2 to beat Sierra and win the Vern Gephardt Champions Cup title Saturday. The other losses came back-to-back last week against Lodi.
Both Turlock and Lodi are defending champs of their Division I conferences, and both are still unbeaten.
Sierra returns all-league first-team selections Delaine Quaresma (midfielder), Moriah Fallon (goalkeeper) and third-year varsity junior Stephanie Vanni, the team’s current leading scorer with five goals. The Timberwolves, who have five underclassmen on the roster, also bring up players from last year’s defending champion frosh-soph squad.
Sierra doesn’t have to look far to find contenders eager to knock it off its throne, and the T’Wolves will face one of them Thursday.
Crosstown rivals Manteca (6-2-1) and East Union (5-2-2) also have a good mix of returning varsity veterans and promising newcomers.
Manteca, which hosts Sierra Thursday, lost only to defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Ripon and Lodi in non-league action. The Buffaloes, though, won their own tournament and didn’t surrender a goal in three games.
Back are talented striker Airenne Curry (eight goals) and midfielder Rileigh Mankin (seven goals, three assists). Manteca also boasts freshmen forwards Sammie Morris (five goals) and Sialei Manulelua (six goals, six assists) and midfielder Lacey Silva (eight goals).
Goalkeeper Jimi Guibor and midfielders Breanne Hatfield and Jessica Reeder were key contributors as freshmen last year.
East Union went 1-0-2 against the SJS D-V finalists, Ripon and Central Catholic, in non-league and brings back all-league juniors Megan Howley (five goals) and Reanna Schmitt.
Senior midfielder Ode Castillo, junior Milli Medoza (five assists) and sophomores Selena DaSilva (two goals, four assists) and Stephanie Sabala (five goals) key the Lancers’ attack. Jessica Villegas returns to anchor the back line.
Freshmen Kianna and Kayla Lamont and Erica DaSilva have made immediate impacts.
It should be a wild race for one of the VOL’s three SJS D-IV playoff spots with Oakdale (6-2-1) and Sonora also expected to be in the mix.
Oakdale took third last year and missed a berth with only two teams advancing to the postseason. All-league defender Lexi Seese leads the Mustangs with four goals. Also back is sophomore midfielder Kristen Brunk.
Sonora, which dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Bret Harte in its only non-league match, is reloading after winning three straight VOL championships from 2006-08. All-league forward Tori Selesia racked up 18 goals last year and is back, as is talented freshman Abby Runte.
The Wildcats will be tested right away with a home game against East Union tonight.
Ceres (2-4-3) and Weston Ranch hope to be more competitive this year with promising underclassmen on both teams. Central Valley (1-5-1) and first-year varsity Lathrop, the league’s newest schools, are still building for the future.