Sierra went from escaping with a disappointing one-goal win to breathing a sigh of relief that it remained a 1-1 tie with visiting Lathrop High on Thursday.
Estevan Lopez nearly scored the game winner for the Spartans (1-4-3 Valley Oak League, 7-7-3 overall) on a one-man counterattack in the final seconds of the match.
Just moments prior, Sierra (5-1-2, 9-4-3) had 10 players set up on the attacking third with hopes of winning it ona corner kick. A defender cleared the ball out of the penalty area, and it found its way to a streaking Lopez. Lopez broke away with only Sierra keeper Manny Garcia to beat downfield. Garcia charged toward Lopez, who chipped his attempt past the goalie and wide of the left post.
Despite the tough break at the end, Lathrop coach Lenny Lial was more pleased with the overall performance than disappointed with the end result.
“Our guys were pretty motivated,” he said, alluding to Lathrop’s 4-1 loss to Sierra in the VOL opener. “I think we’re always motivated when we play Sierra, and I they might have been looking past us a little big because they have two tough teams (Manteca, Oakdale) coming up next.”
The Timberwolves were without standout midfielder Juan Acosta and sweeper Edwin Perez, who were both serving one-game suspensions for yellow-card accumulations.
Sierra still played well defensively and had many chances to score. It wasn’t until the 71st minute that the Timberwolves broke the ice, as Cesar Martinez made good on a penalty kick.
Lathrop answered in the 76th minute when Jonathan Lopez knocked it in following Kevin Alvarez’s corner-kick cross.
Erik DeLeon racked up seven saves at goal for Lathrop. Sierra’s Julian Semenza had four stops in the first half, and Garcia added three.
“It was a real tough game, but you gotta give credit to Lathrop — they played the game of their life,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said. “They but us to a lot of the balls and wanted it more than we did. The longer the game went the more momentum started going their way.
“In the second half we had eight or nine corner kicks and couldn’t find the net. It was just of those games. Frustrating.”