Top-seeded Manteca dominated in its Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff opener on Tuesday, though the 2-0 final against visiting Ceres may indicate otherwise.
Leah Manuleleua and Kaitlynn Funsch scored in the 18th and 34th minutes for the Buffaloes (22-2-1), who held a commanding 27-6 advantage in shots (15-3 on goal). Manteca remained poised throughout despite the mounting misses, perhaps a little too poised to coach Justin Coenenberg’s liking.
“It didn’t really feel like at any time we were in danger, but at the same time I thought we were flat,” Coenenberg said. “We seemed comfortable with the situation and I would have liked to have seen a little more urgency.”
With the wind to their backs, the Buffaloes tested Ceres goalie Angelmarie Coral from distance in the opening minutes. As the game wore on Manteca’s attempts inched closer. Manuleleua buried the first goal from inside the 18-yard line, blowing it by Coral after Lejla Pepic set up her uncontested shot with a short cross.
Funsch doubled the lead later in the half after stealing the ball from Ceres defender Brianna Zamora inside the penalty box following a corner kick by Alexa Mayen. Funsch was rewarded for her hustle with an easy 1-on-1 opportunity.
Manteca could have had the second goal sooner. In the 26th minute, Manuleleua’s direct kick try pounded off the crossbar and bounced hard off the turf near the goal line before Coral was able to gather it. Four minutes later, Ivy Benson had a shot deflect off the right post, and Manuleleua’s follow-up went wide.
Benson had another crack at it just moments later, as Coral thwarted the breakaway attempt with a diving save. Coral finished her busy day in front of the net with 13 saves.
“There were definitely some opportunities we should have capitalized on,” Coenenberg said. “We definitely need to make sure we’re a lot sharper because the competition is only going to get better.”
Manteca welcomes No. 8 Benicia (10-8) to Guss Schmiedt Field on Thursday. Benicia held off No. 9 Cordova 3-2 after holding a three-goal lead at halftime.
Ceres (12-6-1), the third-place team out of the Western Athletic Conference, was able to limit Manteca to six shots in the second half but still couldn’t crack the Buffaloes’ stout defense, which secured its 15th shutout of the season.
The Bulldogs’ best chances came from two long-range bombs from Karina Estrada. Manteca keeper Ashlee Miller leaped straight up to thwart both attempts.
“Our girls started picking it up in the second half,” Ceres coach Miguel Saldate said. “We were kind of asleep in the first half, but they have an awesome team here in Manteca.”