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Top-seeded Sierra dominates in loss to West Campus
Sierras Yolanda Tavares (18) wins the battle for the ball in the air with West Campus Bella Flores (12). - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Career win No. 400 will have to wait for Sierra head coach Manuel Pires.

Until then, the only loss of the 2016 season for his Timberwolves will serve as motivation for those returning next year.

The top-seeded team in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs is one and done after No. 9 West Campus of Sacramento pulled out a 1-0 stunner Thursday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. Sierra (22-1-5) dominated from whistle to whistle despite missing two key starters — sweeper Alison Bitle and midfielder Kyndra Kiser — to illnesses and outshot the Warriors 18-5 but missed two penalty kicks in the second half.

 “It was just one of those games,” Pires said. “We couldn’t get anything to bounce our way.”

West Campus (10-8-1) made its only shot of the first half count. In the third minute, Maya Richardson used a quick burst along the right flank to break away from the Sierra defense on a counterattack, and Bella Flores was there to knock in her perfect cross.

The Warriors played on their heels from that point on and managed to survive the constant onslaught from Sierra’s attack, which hadn’t previously been shut out all season. They’ll head to Placer (11-7) for a semifinal matchup next Monday. The fourth-seeded Hillmen from Auburn beat Pioneer 4-2 on Thursday.

“On paper Sierra should be the favorite by a long shot against us, but soccer isn’t played on paper,” West Campus coach Benjamin Zook said. “Soccer is one of the only sports where the better team doesn’t always necessarily win the game. It’s all about what you do on the field, making the most of your opportunities and digging deep.”

Sierra had many chances to net the equalizer, none better than the PKs in the 56th and 58th minutes. 

Sophomore left winger Daisy Valencia led a counter and forced the first penalty after West Campus defender Cassandra Aguilar redirected her cross with a hand.

Freshman Jadyn Shinn, Sierra’s scoring leader with 23 goals and 16 assists, drove her PK directly goalie Tianna Aiken, who was then booked for a yellow card after colliding with Sierra forward Kaleigh Doyle while chasing down the loose ball in the penalty box.

West Campus’ replacement keeper wasn’t tested on the ensuing penalty shot, as Callie Crain hit the crossbar. Crain’s next shot, a well struck missile from 30 yards out, skipped off the crossbar in the 67th minute.

“We had so many opportunities; we just couldn’t put any of them away,” Doyle said. “We had such a great season. We worked our butts off. We came from being third-to-last place in the VOL and not making the playoffs for three or four years to making sections. 

“It’s so heartbreaking losing on your home field, but this team is amazing. I wouldn’t want to lose with any other team.”

Expectations will be high next season for the Timberwolves, who are loaded with talented underclassmen and experienced juniors.

“Hopefully this is a good learning experience for those players who are returning,” Pires said. “You can’t take anything for granted, obviously. I thought we played pretty decent, good enough to win. I really thought we were going to get the goal to get us back in this game but that’s the way it goes.”