SJS playoffs 1st round
DIVISION III BOYS
Tuesday, Feb. 20
No. 13 Mira Loma at No. 4 Sierra, 6:30 p.m.
No. 11 American Canyon at No. 6 East Union, 6:30 p.m.
DIVISION III GIRLS
Wednesday, Feb. 21
No. 15 Vanden at No. 2 Sierra, 6:30 p.m.
No. 9 East Union at No. 8 Benicia, 3 p.m.
No. 10 Manteca at No. 7 Christian Bros., 3 p.m.
DIVISION IV BOYS
Tuesday, Feb. 20
No. 9 Weston Ranch at No. 8 Lindhurst, 3 p.m.
DIVISION V GIRLS
Wednesday, Feb. 21
No. 7 Capital Christian at No. 2 Ripon, 3 p.m.
Sierra and Ripon’s girls soccer teams get the benefit of homefield advantage for the postseason, but it will be no easy task for them to get to the Sac-Joaquin Section finals.
They each earned No. 2 seeds, with Sierra (22-0-2) leading three local squads in Division III and the Indians (13-4-2) slotted on the opposite end of Trans-Valley League rival Hilmar (18-1-6) in the eight-team Division V.
Sierra reached the D-III final last year as the second seed, losing to No. 1 Vista del Lago, 3-1. The Timberwolves, coming off their second straight Valley Oak League championship run and 13th overall, have won four section titles in nine final-round appearances.
Opening-round matches for girls games are set for next Wednesday, while the boys kick off the postseason on Tuesday. Sierra plays host to No. 15 Vanden (14-5-1), while No. 9 East Union (15-5-2) and No. 10 Manteca (18-5-2) — which finished second and third in the competitive VOL, respectively — start on the road.
If Manteca pulls off an upset of No. 7 Christian Brothers (9-6-4) on Wednesday, the Buffaloes may get a rematch with Sierra in the quarterfinals. They battled to an exciting 4-4 draw in their previous showdown.
Championship matches for Division III will take place March 3 at Elk Grove or Cosumnes Oaks High. Also at stake this year are berths to the first-ever CIF Northern California Regional Championships, which go to the two Division I finalists and Divisions II-VII champions.
“The Division III bracket is loaded with some great teams, and it’s amazing to have three teams in our league in it,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “It’s going to be a great challenge for all of us. I don’t know much about Vanden, I don’t think we’ve ever played them before, but only one team gets to move on in these games so we have to treat each one like it’s a final.”
The Division III girls field features four of the top 10 teams in the section, according to MaxPreps computer rankings. Top-seeded Rio Americano (16-0-2) is ranked No. 2 in the section and 12th overall in the state. The strength of the bracket is what likely caused East Union and Manteca, the 2015 and 16 Division III champions, to fall further in the seedings than expected.
East Union gets a tough draw in Solano County Athletic Conference champion Benicia (17-5-1), and the winner is rewarded with a likely matchup with Rio Americano. The Lancers lost to Rio Americano in the first round last year, 6-2.
“I’m not happy with it, but it is what it is,” East Union coach Carlos Gaspar said. “We have something to prove now and the girls are excited.”
TVL runner-up Ripon could get a fourth crack at Hilmar this season, barring upsets. Hilmar narrowly won two of their previous meetings, and they finished in a scoreless draw in the other.
“We’ve gotten extremely familiar with each other, and it would be good to keep it in the TVL if we make the finals,” Ripon coach Nichole Meyer said. “It would prove that the teams in our league are very strong and able to compete.”
Her Indians will have to get through two lower-division powerhouses to get to the championship round, set for Thursday, March 1 at Elk Grove or Cosumnes Oaks. First up is No. 7 Capital Christian (8-9-3) of Sacramento, which owns three section titles (two in Division VI) since 2014 and lost Amador 3-2 in last year’s Division V final. Third-seeded West Campus (14-6-4) looms as the likely semifinal opponent for the winner. West Campus has claimed three of the last seven Division V titles.
“We know that going in we’ll be up against some teams that have been very successful in the past,” Meyer said. “It can be a little intimidating, but the girls are excited to compete at a high level.”
On the boys side, VOL champion Sierra (15-4-3) and top-seeded Pacheco (11-0-6) are set up for a semifinal rematch of their hard-fought 2017 Division IV title game. Pacheco edged out the then No. 8-seeded Timberwolves in a shootout, 1-1 (4-3 PKs).
Seeded fourth, Sierra is 9-0-2 in its last 11 and faces off with No. 13 Mira Loma (8-4-2) next Tuesday.
“I like where we are,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said. “The team is ready and confident. We are a different team now than we were at the start of the season.
East Union coach Ronnie Green is also pleased with his team’s placement. The sixth-seeded Lancers (18-4-4) will welcome No. 11 American Canyon (8-4-5).
“I kind of knew where we’d be,” Green said. “I don’t mind the 6 (seed); we get at least one home game and I like the matchups on our side of the bracket.”
The VOL’s two other postseason qualifiers are in Division IV. Weston Ranch (7-13-3) are seeded ninth and head to No. 8 Lindhust (13-6-1). Awaiting the winner with a first-round bye is No. 1 Galt (22-0-1), which has already beaten Weston Ranch 5-0 this season. Oakdale (11-0-4) opens at home as the No. 6 seed and faces No. 11 Calaveras (10-10-2).