Naomi Nunis didn’t score a goal in Sierra’s first two games of the Vern Gebhardt Champions Cup, but she’s a big reason why the Timberwolves are heading to the semifinals.
It was her speed and hustle that led to their two penalty-kick goals — both converted by Sydnee Canales — in a 2-1 win over a dangerous Downey side that competed well despite competing with a player down for the final 48 minutes of the match Friday night. Games consist of two 30-minute halves in the tournament.
Earlier in the day, Sierra (4-1-1) dispatched a shorthanded Millennium team, 4-0.
The nimble Nunis snapped Sierra out of its sluggish start against Downey, one of four Modesto schools featured in the 16-team tournament field. For the opening 10 minutes it was the Knights who were the aggressor. They even had a clean look in the first minute when Sierra keeper Emma Broderick stopped a point-blank attempt by Teresa Moreno.
Nunis caught Downey on its heels in the 13th minute, when she carried the ball from Sierra’s defensive third and blew past two defenders to set up a 1-on-1 opportunity. Nikkel Church challenged Nunis from behind and took her down. Church was issued a red card to give Sierra the one-player advantage, and the Timberwolves were awarded the penalty kick.
“You have players that have speed but they don’t know how to use it. (Nunis) knows how to use it,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “That first goal was a beauty. She made the quick decision to go right up the middle and the defender had no choice but to take her down.
“That was a key play because I don’t know if we’d be talking about playing in the semifinals (today) if it wasn’t for that. They were totally dominating the game up until that point. Sometimes a game can turn on one play and that’s what happened.”
Downey returned the favor in the 26th minute.
After taking the lead, the Timberwolves were the team in control, stringing passes together, dominating possession and setting up several impressive runs. Canales nearly scored in the 17th minute but had her high line-drive bullet batted down by the finger tips of Downey goalie Adriana Lopez.
Downey turned the tide late in the first half when Tea Carter buried a shot from deep inside Sierra’s penalty area. Madeleine Souza set up the goal with a cross from near the right corner.
Sierra retook the lead four minutes into the second half, thanks again in large part to Nunis. On a breakaway, midfielder Daisy Rivera delivered a through ball for Nunis, whose pressure forced Lopez to bobble the ball while jumping on it. Nunis picked it away and crossed it to Jessica Cuenca, who had her shot deflected away by a Downey defender.
That gave Sierra its first corner kick try of game and was granted another PK shortly after the cross when a Downey player got whistled for a handball.
The Timberwolves relied on their defense from that point forward. Canales and Rivera both drew yellow cards for rough play midway through the second half, and they sat out the rest of the match as Sierra struggled to regain full control.
“I was disappointed because I thought our team should have been more organized and should have held onto the ball better with them being down a player,” Pires said. “We didn’t use our head, and some of our players lost their cool. They’re the leaders on the team, and when they aren’t in there it affects the whole team.”
Against Millennium, Cuenca netted a pair of goals, while Alexis Young and Sydnee Canales scored one each. Kyrstin Riley had two assists.
The Timberwolves will face Tracy in the semifinals today in a rematch of their season opener on Feb. 26. It also a rematch of last year’s Champions Cup finale won by Tracy, which was claimed four straight against Sierra since 2010. Enochs takes on crosstown rival Modesto in the other semifinal. Both contests are scheduled to kick off at noon. The third-place match starts at 3, and the finals at 4:30.
“We’re going to play teams that are at the same level as the top four or five teams in our league,” Pires said. “It’s a good test to see where this group of girls is at. There is still room for us to grow.”
Lathrop 1, Beyer 1
Modesto 4, Lathrop 0
Melissa Ponce accounted for the Spartans’ only goal of the day. Edna Magana and Callia Morales-Linnell combined for seven saves at goal.
The loss to Modesto was a double whammy for Lathrop, which lost Magana early to a broken finger on a scoring play. Morales-Linnell finished with six saves.
Ripon Christian 1, Waterford 0
At Waterford, senior Ashley Bloemhof made one last contribution for her team before going in for season-ending surgery to repair a separated shoulder next week.
In Friday’s league opener, Bloemhof played through the pain for 80 minutes — none more important than the last. She drew a foul that gave RC the deciding free kick that was put away by Emily Hoeksema.
Goalie Bryanna Heida recorded five saves in the shutout.
Ripon 2, Edison 0
The Indians (3-2) ended their nonleague schedule strong, registering their third straight win along with a third consecutive shutout. Assistant coach Bryce Perkins said that moving Morgan Carrico to the stopper position has helped solidified the defense, which hasn’t’ given up a goal since the change. Zaire Daivs also debuted at sweeper Friday and was a difference maker.
Freshman Hailey Simmons helped Ripon break the ice in the sixth minute with a breakaway. She found Michelle Cordova, who dished it to Jessica Carmona for the lead. Later in the first half, Tia Sidtikun put away a short-range shot after working off a cross from Maci Christian.