Sierra’s Valley Oak League opener with visiting Lathrop was target practice Thursday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, though the defending champion was off the mark too often for coach Manuel Pires’ taste.
The Timberwolves rolled to a 9-0 victory behind Jadyn Shinn’s hat trick and Yasmin Ballew’s three assists, but Sierra unleashed a mind-boggling 58 shots — 35 on goal.
Countless one-on-one opportunities were botched, some with open nets. The true star of this matchup was Lathrop keeper Noelle Smith, who did all she could to keep her injury-ravaged squad in the fight with 25 saves.
“I’d like to see us be more precise on the attacking third,” Pires said. “We did finish with nine goals, but you have to give it to their goalkeeper, she made some outstanding saves. She didn’t make it easy to score, that’s for sure.”
After several misses for Sierra (1-0-0, 10-0-1), Shinn opened scoring in the sixth minute with a rocket shot from 20 yards away. Tiana Cello scored both of her goals — the first of which was set up by a nice through ball from fellow freshman Jenna Villanueva — in the first 23 minutes, and the Timberwolves were well ahead 5-0 by halftime.
It should have been a much wider margin after attempting 31 shots in the first half, 19 on frame with others getting blown wide from high-percentage ranges.
Defender Emilee Berg scored on an overlapping run to open scoring in the second half. Daisy Valencia, Joselyn Herrera and Villanueva also found the net, and Shinn completed her three-score night in the 64th minute following a pass from Callie Crain.
The Lathrop (0-1-0, 3-2-1) defense was able to draw 11 offsides infractions, but other than that and the impressive play of Smith they had no answers for the relentless Timberwolves attack.
“I thought we moved the ball around pretty well and dominated everywhere on the field,” Pires said. Their system of play with the offside trap allowed some of our players with the speed that they have to capitalize.
“Sometimes when those girls would get on a breakaway they thought it would be easy to score, but that goalkeeper did a good job of cutting off the angle. I was impressed by her.”
The Spartans took their only shot of the match in the 58th minute, a prayer off a long-distance free kick from Kayla DeAnda. They had a rough time mounting any kind of threat with five starters out with injuries, including reigning league MVP Kassandra Ceja and second-leading scorer Cydney Garcia.
“What you saw from Sierra with their speed and the movement, we can do that, too,” Lathrop coach Jose Montes said. “We were patching things up. We’ll fix it. This was a good test for these girls.”