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Sierra narrowly nabs 3rd section tourney berth
GLF--VOL Tournament file 1
Manteca Highs Justin Morrish placed fourth in the Valley Oak League Championships held at Micke Grove Golf Links in Lodi on Tuesday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

Sierra nearly blew its chance to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Tournament for the first time since 2010 Tuesday in the Valley Oak League Championships.

The Timberwolves placed fifth at Lodi’s Micke Grove Golf Links, opening the door for Oakdale to steal the last of three berths available to the VOL.  They performed when it mattered in a team playoff on the 364-yard, par-4 first hole, outshooting Oakdale 21-26 while getting a clutch birdie from Matt Rose and pars from No. 5 and 6 players Isaac Gutierrez and David Ketner.

League champion Sonora finished the season undefeated and edged out runner-up East Union — the defending champ — 433-437. Kimball and Oakdale both finished with a 461, while Sierra turned in a disappointing 483. Kimball actually held the tiebreaking advantage over Oakdale by having the better dropped score, which kept the Mustangs from taking the third section spot outright.

“We didn’t play very good at all, shot our worst score of the year and made it by the skin of our teeth,” Sierra coach Jeff Williams said. “We were very fortunate today. We had one good hole at the right time.”

Along with the top three teams, the VOL will bring six individuals to the SJS Division IV Tournament next Monday at Manteca Park Golf Course. Included in that group are Manteca High’s Justin Morrish and Brandon Ramirez. Morrish finished second behind MVP Billy Kiriluk in the season points standings and was one of six Manteca Unified golfers to make the All-VOL first team. Morrish was also the area’s top placer in the VOL tournament, finishing 10-over-par 82 for fourth.

Kimball’s Reese Maxfield was low medalist with a 78 and was followed by Sonora’s Kiriluk (81) and Spencer Morse (82). Sonora had three of the top five placers.

The Wildcats were challenged by East Union’s promising group consisting mostly of underclassmen. Scoring for the Lancers were sixth-place Nick Roundsville (83), seventh-place Trevor Baum (84), 10th-place Ryan Lee (88), Clayton Dorland (90) and Michael Lozano (92). Senior Eric Lewis, Baum and Lozano earned spots on the all-league first team, while Lee made the second team.

“Not too bad, but not as good as I thought we would play,” said East Union coach Dennis Wells, who led the Lancers to five VOL championships in the previous seven years. “But coming up four shots shy of Sonora is a confidence builder for our young guys going into sections. I think we have a good chance to at least finish in the top two (which advances to the SJS Masters Tournament) on our course but our guys will have to play well.”

Sierra scorers were Blake Settlemoir (90), Chris Schmitz (99), Chuck Good (92), Gutierrez (108) and Rose (94). Settlemoir took third in the points standings and is joined by Rose on the All-VOL first team. Good and Schmitz are on the second team.

Manteca’s Ramirez shot a 94 and is an all-league second-team member.