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Sierra seeks to end Cup slide
TWolves have dropped three straight finals in own tourney
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A look at the teams playing in Sierra High’s Vern Gebhardt Champions Cup, which begins today:


Sierra, Downey, Millennium, Argonaut


Tracy, Davis, Ceres, Merced


Enochs, Tokay, Patterson, Linden


Modesto, Pacheco, Lathrop, Beyer

For Manuel Pires, this regional rivalry with Tracy is beginning to feel a lot like Groundhog’s Day.

Will this be the year the Sierra girls soccer team finally breaks the chain of command at the Vern Gebhardt Champions Cup?

The Timberwolves have played in the final game of its tournament the last three years, only to be denied each time.

Last season, Tracy hoisted the winner’s trophy with a 2-1 victory that was days removed from a 3-1 victory over Sierra.

Fast forward to 2013.

Tracy spoiled the Timberwolves’ season debut with a 3-1 victory on Feb. 26, and it appears poised to defend its Champions Cup title.

In fact, Tracy has won its last four meetings with Sierra dating back to 2010.

“They’re very athletic. They have some very strong players at almost every position on the field,” Pires said. “They’ll be one of the favorites.”

The tournament will have a down-home feel to it, as Pires has received RSVPs from 16 Sac-Joaquin Section schools. For the first time in recent memory, the tournament won’t host an out-of-section program.

That’s OK.

The Champions Cup remains a toss-up. Tracy and Sierra have the most cache in the field, but a host of contenders remain.

Pires believes Merced and Modesto Metro Conference entrants Downey, Enochs, Beyer and Modesto could emerge from pool play.

The championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in the stadium.

“I think it’s a great setup,” Pires said. “There’s potential in each bracket. I think there will be some pretty tough games.”

Sierra opens today with defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII champion Millennium at 2:30 p.m. and Downey at 6:15. Both games will be played in Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

“I think Downey is going to push us,” Pires said, “but we have to prepare to play everyone.”

The Champions Cup has grown from 12 teams to 16 and will include a 12-team frosh-soph tournament. Games will be played at four fields on campus, including the stadium, as well as Roberts Park behind the school.

“I think it’s the format and location of the fields that attract these teams,” Pires said. “The competition helps, too.”

Lathrop (3-3-1) will compete out of Pool D, where it will be matched up against Beyer, Modesto and Pacheco. The Spartans’ lost their season opener to Pacheco, but had a strong showing at the Buff Cup.

Lathrop beat Orestimba, tied Vacaville and lost to University.

“We are using this tournament to find a rotation and solidify positions for girls,” Spartan first-year coach Gabe Padilla said. “I want them to continue to build on the hard work and confidence they have built throughout this positive preseason.”