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Buffs battle back to snap out losing funk
Manteca High’s Jimi Guibor connects as Lathrop middle blocker Krystal Ruiz tries to get a piece of it Tuesday at Winter Gymnasium. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
Manteca High coach Tim Horning sat at the end of the bench, head buried into his hands while his players settled into their seats on the other end of the court between the second and third games.

The Buffaloes had just fallen behind two games to none against visiting Lathrop Thursday after a serve lined harmlessly into the net.

“It was frustrating in the beginning because it just looked more of the same. It was like, ‘Here we go again,’” Horning said.

And just like that, things started to click for Manteca.

Sparked by reserve Brittina Burch along with the all-around play of starting outside hitter Jimi Guibor, Manteca battled back to steal a five-game victory — 22-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-14, 15-12.

Dallas Mould — who led all players with seven kills and four blocks — iced it with a block in the deciding fifth game. It was the first Valley Oak League win for the Buffaloes (1-5, 2-11 overall), who last triumphed on Sept. 9 with a sweep of Stagg before dropping seven straight.

“It was nice to finally get that over with,” Guibor said. “It’s been so long.”

Guibor (5 kills, 3 blocks, 7 aces, 9 digs) clinched the third game for Manteca with a tip, and the Buffaloes parlayed the momentum into a dominant Game-4 effort.

Burch got the crowd into it early in the fourth with the match’s most emphatic kill, tying it at 5 while Guibor was in the middle of an eight-point service rally.

While Manteca was hit-and-miss with passing and hitting throughout, its constant go-to weapon was the serve. Tara Dadasovich had six aces, while Lacey Silva and Burch added four apiece. Silva also contributed four kills.

“That was probably the most aces I’ve seen from any of the teams I’ve coached here,” Horning said.

Lathrop (1-5, 4-6), coming off Thursday’s win against Kimball, had its share of success from the service line. Cecelia Lopez finished with eight aces and helped Lathrop come back to win the first game.

With the team down 19-22, Lopez smacked a kill before taking her turn serving. She served in the game’s final five points, including two aces.

Lathrop did well to take Game 1 despite seven services errors.

Janel Butler set 22 assists, and libero Brittany Rallios picked up 37 digs.

“This is the most intensity I’ve seen from them, and it’s definitely a step up from where we were,” Lathrop coach Nicole Unrein said. “We have room to build, but we have definitely come a long ways from the beginning of the season. I told the girls that this was a good learning experience for us.”

Both teams hope to end the first half of league play on a high note Thursday, with Manteca travelling to Tracy to take on first-year varsity Kimball and Lathrop playing host to Manteca Unified rival Weston Ranch.