Opposing teams are well aware of Sierra’s Jadyn Shinn, but no one has been able to stop her yet.
In a Valley Oak League first-place battle at Manteca High’s Guss Schmiedt Field on Friday, the reigning All-Area MVP scored twice and assisted Yasmin Ballew to lift the Timberwolves to a 3-2 victory.
Shinn missed Sierra’s first seven contests of the season while competing for the San Jose Earthquakes Girls Academy and has scored in every match since rejoining the squad.
“A girl that is as talented as that, it’s tough to contain her all night,” Manteca coach Justin Coenenberg said. “We could have done a better job helping on her, but she’s so good with the ball playing with her back (to the goal), and she just turns so quick and she’s able to go by (defenders) or lay balls off. She’s difficult to defend.”
The Timberwolves (5-0 VOL, 14-0-1 overall) trailed for the first time since their season opener with Gregori — which ended in a 3-3 tie — but strung together three unanswered goals. Shinn delivered the insurance score in the 56th minute, crushing it from the top of the 18-yard line after Jenna Villanueva crossed it from the right side.
Manteca (3-1-0, 11-4-0) did not present much of a threat in the second half but had some hope late when Alexa Mayen converted a penalty kick in the 77th minute.
“It’s always going to be a (good) game,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “These two teams love to play with intensity against each other. I’m glad that we stepped up our game and finished with that extra goal.”
Manteca’s Kaley Miller gave his Timberwolves fits in the first half, even while Sierra dominated possession. The Buffaloes’ best offense was on counter attacks, and that is how they jumped ahead just six minutes into the match.
Madison Burch stole the ball near midfield and quickly pushed it ahead to the fleet-footed Miller, who later had two other breakaway opportunities thwarted by Sierra keeper Michaela Bitle (three saves).
“She’s a game changer and she’s hard to defend,” Coenenberg said of Miller. “She did a great job and drew a lot of attention. We need to do a better job, when she is drawing attention, of having other girls get pushed up in the attack and get involved as well.”
It was only a matter of time for Sierra to find the net. Ballew came through with the equalizer, scooting to an open spot in the penalty box with Shinn sending the well-timed cross after eluding defenders along the left flank.
Shinn put the Timberwolves up for good in the 35th minute, taking a long pass from defender Yolanda Tavares before beating several Buffaloes defenders dribbling left to right across the penalty box.
Miller threatened to tie it up in the final minute of the half. Carolyn Morrish set her up nicely with a lobbed through pass, and Bitle came sliding toward Miller to deflect the short-range attempt.
Sierra was able to neutralize Manteca’s sophomore striker in the second half.
“We had to make an adjustment to make sure that she was not having any space,” Pires said. “Somebody needed to be marking her and we had a second defender cover. In the second half we did not give them those opportunities.”
Sierra outshot the Buffaloes 16-8 (8-5 on goal) and held the ball on Manteca’s end of the field for most of the game. Aimee Meier finished with five saves for Manteca, all coming in the first half.
Manteca still has reason to come away confident as it continues a difficult stretch in its schedule. Up next is Central Catholic (2-2, 10-6-1) on the road Monday, and on Jan. 19 the Buffaloes welcome another contending rival in East Union (4-0-, 9-4). East Union also squares off with Sierra next Tuesday.
“We can definitely change some things for next time,” Coenenberg said. “I think the girls believe now that we can play with them.”
Manteca 2, Sierra 1
Allannah Harnden and Esmeralda Ochoa each scored to propel Manteca to the win.