Leah Manuleleua was a first grader when Manteca High’s girls soccer team last beat Sierra.
Eight years later, the freshman midfielder headed in the winning goal that ended the drought. Chenayi Tavaziva delivered the corner kick cross to Manuleleua late in the first half, and the Buffaloes held on to prevail 1-0 at Guss Schmiedt Field.
Under then-head coach Johnny Avila, who watched from the sidelines Friday, Manteca twice beat Sierra in April of 2005. In the years since, the Timberwolves won 11 in a row before the crosstown rivals battled to three straight draws.
In their previous match on April 18, 2012, Jessica Cuenca booted the equalizer in the final seconds of a 1-1 draw. The frustration from that finish made Friday’s result taste that much sweeter for Coach Justin Coenenberg and the Buffaloes.
“It feels great,” he said. “Last year I thought we outplayed them and they got the goal in the last minute to tie it, but that’s the way soccer goes. This time it wasn’t as pretty as we had hoped, but no matter what the conditions are these rivalry games are always going to be battles.”
It didn’t start out to be much of one, as Sierra (1-1 Valley Oak League, 5-3-2 overall) outclassed the home team with hustle and ball possession. The Timberwolves’ best look in the early going was a header from Tiffany Quezada that sailed high in the 15th minute.
“We took it to them,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said, “and we had two or three good-looking chances. I thought we should have at least come up with one goal. Those were our best moments of the game and we were just unable to get much going after that.”
The Timberwolves attempted six shots before Manteca (2-1, 9-3) took its first, but by the midway point of the opening stanza the Buffaloes had taken control.
Manteca had two great opportunities within seconds of each other during the 28th minute. Sammie Morris set up Tavaziva’s breakaway chance with a perfect through ball, but Sierra goalie Emma Broderick was able to slap the high line-drive shot over the crossbar. Then Morris’ head shot on the ensuing corner kick floated high off the mark.
“Usually it takes us a couple of minutes to get into a rhythm,” Morris said. “I think this time it took a little longer because they’re Sierra — that’s our big rival. It can be intimidating we do enjoy playing them.
Manuleleua finally broke the ice in the 35th minute.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time on set pieces and corner kicks because a lot of times that all it takes, and that’s what it took today,” Coenenberg said.
Sierra’s chances to tie it took a blow just five minutes into the second half, as speedy striker Naomi Nunis went down with an apparent knee injury. While she eventually was able to walk without assistance, Pires said the severity of the injury is unknown.
The Sierra defense held up as the attack struggled to generate threatening runs without its leading scorer for the remainder of the contest.
“I had to make a lot of different adjustments and ask different players try different positions they’re not used to,” Pires said. “Hopefully, she wasn’t seriously injured. If we had her for the entire second half I really think we could have come away with at least a point.”