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Awesome season comes to a close
Sierra’s Michaela Scott hangs her head in disbelief as the Whitney team runs on the field to celebrate their 4-1 win. - photo by HIME ROMERO
STOCKTON – Manuel Pires tried to put Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Whitney in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game into perspective.

“One game does not make the season,” the Sierra High girls’ varsity coach said. “We had an awesome season.”

After all, the Timberwolves (27-1-1) were ranked among the top teams in the country, with the title game at the Alex G. Spanos Stadium marking their eighth appearance in the finals in the past 11 years and first since 2006.

Pires knew that the words to his team were not enough to ease the pain

Sierra, for starters, had trouble playing its game, particularly with the heat-absorbing synthetic turf on the Lincoln High field rising to triple-digit temperatures amid the 95-degree weather come game time.
Still, Pires knew that the Wildcats also had to deal with the same elements. “They did a better job adjusting,” he said.

Early on, Whitney relied on its aggressive style of play while beating Sierra to the ball.
were not attacking,” Pires said. “We usually get to the 50-50 balls. But today that just wasn’t the case.”

In the 10th minute, the Wildcats took a 1-0 lead on Elizabeth Grover’s second-attempt shot that came after Moriah Fallon, the Sierra goalie, had managed a save.

Whitney (14-1-8) had the ball bounce its way on several occasions, including Rachel Walker’s goal in the 23rd minute. Grover, who was the catalyst, tried a cross-shot that deflected off the post only to ricochet towards Walker’s direction.

 “They took it to us during the first 20 or 30 minutes,” said the Sierra coach. “They ran our defense ragged by going with two strikers.”

The Timberwolves had some chances in the first half, including Keniesha Gathan’s shot from close range that struck the post.

 The Wildcats of the Pioneer Valley League extended their lead in the 63rd minute as Taylor Comer guided the ball into the net off a corner kick.

In the 68th minute, the Timberwolves had a glimmer of hope on Nicole Vanni’s goal. Earlier, she saw her breakaway shot attempt sail wide, but on the scoring sequence took advantage of some nifty ball movement that included teammates Michaela Scott and Stephanie Vanni.

 Whitney, however, added the finishing touches in the 79th minute, with Morgan Edwards scoring off a corner kick.

Sierra was coming off a heart-stopping penalty kick victory over West Campus of Sacramento.

Earlier in the week, the Timberwolves’ 5-0 win against El Dorado represented Pires’ 300th career victory.

He’s been coach at Sierra for the past 14 years.