His number No. 11 is ironed onto the left sleeves of Sierra’s boys soccer jerseys, but the memory of Eddie Aguilar weighs in the hearts of minds of the Timberwolves.
The 2016 Manteca Bulletin All-Area MVP has been a driving force for the team since he passed away on Sept. 10, 2017 following a car accident in Arizona, where he was a freshman forward for the first-year Ottawa University men’s soccer team. On Wednesday, the T’wolves dedicated their 3-1 Valley Oak League title-clinching victory over Weston Ranch to him.
“It means a lot to all of us,” said captain Carlos Mendez, one of just six seniors on this youth-laded squad. “This was a promise that we made to Eddie after he passed away. We just tried our best in every game and managed to get the (title).”
With second-place East Union, the reigning champion, beating Manteca earlier in the night, Sierra (11-1-2 VOL, 15-4-3 overall) needed to win to take sole possession of the title.
They did it with a six-minute scoring burst in the first half and held off a dangerous Weston Ranch team (7-6-1, 7-13-3) that was playing for a favorable postseason seed.
Sierra controlled much of the action in the first half, and Miguel Villasenor got the T’wolves on board in the 10th minute on a breakaway set up by a long goalie punt from Luis Acosta. Five minutes later, impressive freshman Osayi Osawaro doubled the lead, blowing it past Francisco Vega (11 saves) after splitting the defense up the middle.
Moments later, Villasenor sent a through ball to Osawaro for a routine one-on-one.
Osawaro, who grew up in Italy, is a latecomer to the team after he gained academic eligibility. He has been a godsend for a team that lost one of its top playmakers, midfielder Kevin Mendiola, to ineligibility. Osawaro has scored seven goals in seven games.
“He came in late and we didn’t know much about him because he’s a freshman,” Sierra head coach Joe Pires said. “We had seen him in practice and knew he would help the team, but he really fit into that role as the target with his big body. With everyone we already had around him it just worked. Gaining him made a big difference.”
Weston Ranch managed to give Sierra reason for worry despite the wide deficit. Devon Alvarenga scored the goal of the night in the 30th minute. He controlled a cross from Vidal Garcia, turned his back to the goal and connected for a powerful overhead strike.
Alvarenga led several scoring opportunities in the second half, including three accurate crosses from the left corner that resulted in wide attempts.
“We’ve had a little slump here in the end (of the regular season),” Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros said. “I think some of that may have been nerves at the start of this game, but then we settled down and showed we could play with the VOL champs.”
Weston Ranch qualifies for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs with its fourth-place finish league. Both teams will find out where they’re seeded on Friday. For winning league, Sierra will compete in the SJS Division III bracket after mounting a Cinderella run to the Division IV final last season.
Sierra 7, Weston Ranch 3
With two players moving up to the varsity squad, the Timberwolves were able to avenge one of their league losses with a decisive win.
They were led by Andrew Banegas’ hat trick. Cooper Ruiz, Mateo Garcia-Moran and Lorenzo Fatzer also scored goals. Ethan Rullen, Axel Rios, Francisco Becerra and Jordan Romero each contributed an assist.