In a highly-competitive league where every point counts, Sierra isn’t entirely satisfied with its 1-1 draw Friday against visiting Manteca — one of the top-ranked teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Despite controlling the run of play for much of the Valley Oak League contest, the Timberwolves (1-2-2, 8-6-1 overall) needed a late goal from sophomore striker Hailey Cruz to get the result. Sierra outshot the Buffaloes (2-0-2 VOL, 15-1-3 overall) 16-4 and held them to just one attempt in the second half.
That single shot in the latter half just so happened to be Alabama-bound Cami Silva’s breakaway goal.
“We definitely created more of the opportunities and had better possession,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “We knew it was going to be a battle, it always is with the rival teams, but it’s really frustrating for us (to tie) the last two games where we pretty much dominated.”
On Wednesday, Sierra settled for a 1-1 stalemate at last-place Central Catholic after putting 13 of its 22 shots on frame.
On the bright side, for the T’wolves, reigning league MVP Jocelin Roa played her first games of the season this past week. She fired eight shots on Friday, but none were as threatening as her volley try in the 77th minute. Lindsey Rose delivered a cross into the goal box, but Roa’s strike hit the crossbar.
That was not long after Rose set up Cruz’s equalizer. Cruz posted up at the top of the penalty box where she received a low, but pacey ball from Rose. Cruz handled it on the first touch, quickly turned past a defender and settled it into the net with a right-footed strike.
“I played it back to her, she found my feet again and I felt the pressure on my right side, so I just had to turn to my left.,” Cruz said. “I tried to hit that far post, and I ended up getting it. I couldn’t have done it without Lindsey.
“I think we did pretty good,” Cruz added. “We fought until the end and didn’t give up when they scored. I think we definitely could have finished more of our shots, but overall we worked hard.”
Cruz had a chance to give Sierra the lead early in the second half, but her one-time shot was blocked by charging Manteca goalie Haylie Brasil (six saves).
Silva accounted for three of Manteca’s four shots, all of them breakaways. She had great looks in the 24th and 35th minutes, but the first was stopped by Sierra keeper Annika Beall, and the second tagged the crossbar.
The third time was the charm in the 52nd minute, as Silva beat two defenders off the bounce on a long ball delivered by Jaylyn Ruiz.
“We did a great job defending,” Pires said. “We’re not allowing too many opportunities, but it seems like they find a way to get a goal. But I have to give it up to my team. Even though they scored, we stepped up, we kept the pressure and creating opportunities.”
Manteca also finished the week with a pair of 1-1 ties. The Buffs, ranked 12th in the SJS by MaxPreps computer ratings, earlier drew with Oakdale at home and slipped to second place, though they have a game to make up with third-place Kimball.
“We’re just picking a bad time not to play our best soccer this season,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “This is not how we played in the preseason, this is not the way we played starting out in league. We’re just in a little bit of a funk right now. Luckily, we have a good group of girls that works hard. We’ll get out of it. I know they want it.”
Sierra kicks off the second half of its league schedule next Monday at Oakdale, while Manteca heads to East Union.
Only four of the six VOL teams qualify for the postseason. Sierra owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over East Union, for now, and they’re tied for fourth place.
“It’s not over yet,” Pires said. “We’re all going to play each other one more time.”
Sierra 5, Manteca 1
Maitland Kohoutek scored twice for Sierra, while Kileyann O’Neill, Jessica Miranda and Peyton Duarte added one apiece.