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TWOLVES IN THE HUNT
Sierra opens Cup with 2 1-goal wins
SHS-CUP1-3-12-11
Sierra High’s Daisy Rivera gets it down with a header during the Timberwolves’ opening match against Linden in the Vern Gebhardt Cup Friday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. - photo by HIME ROMERO
The Sierra High girls soccer team opened its 7th Annual Vern Gebhardt Cup tournament with two one-goal victories Friday at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

The Timberwolves (4-1-1) followed a lackluster 1-0 win over Linden with a closer-than-it-should-have-been 2-1 triumph over Christian Brothers of Sacramento.

Coach Manuel Pires hopes the up-and-down play that has plagued his squad during the preseason is reversed quickly with a possible championship match with Stockton powerhouse St. Mary’s looming.

More importantly, its Valley Oak League season kicks off with three major threats (Oakdale, Manteca, East Union) to its 2010 conference crown.

“If you watched the first game then watched (the second), we had two different teams,” Pires said. “We’re still trying to find a consistent rhythm that we need to carry through the rest of the season.”

The Timberwolves didn’t settle into a groove until midway through the second half of the Linden match. Defender Sydnee Koscielecki carried the ball the length of the field before dishing it off to Stephanie Vanni for the deciding goal.

Different story against Christian Brothers (3-2). Sierra took command at the outset and fired off the match’s first four shot attempts.

Joanna Ortiz was on the receiving end of a nice sequence set up by midfielder Ashley Sohal in the 8th minute. Sohal squirted through the middle of the Christian Brothers defense and set up Ortiz with an easy touch pass in the penalty box.

Sierra nearly doubled the lead in the next minute, but Vanni’s one-on-one opportunity was thwarted by a diving stop by Falcons keeper Mari Cuevas. Vanni would end up scoring in the 21st minute, but the Timberwolves should have had the game in hand by that point.

In the final play of the 30-minute half, Ashlee Difuntorum blasted in Christian Brothers’ goal from the top of the 18-yard line.  It was the only shot the Falcons took in the half to Sierra’s four.

Ortiz had a fastbreak scoring opportunity in the 25th minute but bounced it off the left post. She had two more breakaways in the final minutes of the game, and in the closing seconds she just missed a header on a perfect cross from Diana Alfaro.

“We should have put more goals in, we had a lot of opportunities,” Ortiz said. But it was good that we finished the ones that we had. We tried our hardest to put them away in the second half, but that’s a good team.”

Sierra, a two-time champion of the tournament, closes pool play with Ceres today at 12:30 p.m. back at the stadium. The first-place finishers from each of the four-team pools meet for the championship at 5 following the consolation match at 3.

St. Mary’s (10-1) pounded Beyer of Modesto and Kimball of Tracy 4-0 and 5-0, respectively. The Rams next square off with Tracy, which stunned Sierra 2-0 on Monday.

Teams receive six points for each pool win, three for a tie, zero for a loss and an extra point for each shutout. A five-step tiebreaking process will be in play should teams finish with the same amount of points.