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VOLs defending champs expect to be tested right away
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Sierra High’s Valley Oak League title defense in girls soccer begins tonight when it hosts unbeaten Oakdale.

And the Timberwolves’ brutal start to their conference schedule won’t let up after that. Manteca (6-2-1) is on deck on March 23, and Sierra will take another crosstown trip to East Union (7-3) two days later.

All three programs are serious threats to the crown. Sierra won its second straight conference championship last year, and 11th in the program’s 16-year history.

Also at stake are the three Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff spots. Last year, was the first since 2000 that the VOL did not have a team represented in an SJS final. Sierra started that run in 2001 by reaching the Division-I championship.

The Timberwolves (5-2-1) are coming off a strong showing in their own Vern Gebhardt Cup, losing the first-place match to Stockton powerhouse St. Mary’s 4-3 in a shootout. Their other non-league loss came at the hands of Tracy High, 2-0, in a mild upset.

Tracy lost a 2-1 decision to neighboring Kimball in the Gebhardt Cup, and Kimball just so happens to be Sierra’s opponent following the East Union match. The first-year varsity Jaguars are off to a 4-1-1 start, and that’s without a senior class.

Manteca’s contending teams are also young, including Sierra with its three freshmen and two sophomores. East Union has nine underclassmen (five freshmen), while Manteca High has eight.

Oakdale boasts the most experience and enters league play with a 7-0-2 record. The Mustangs defeated Sierra for the first time last year, 3-1 on April 20.

Sonora continues to rebuild after capturing three straight section championships (2006-08). Weston Ranch (2-4-1) is under the guidance of first-year co-head coaches Francisco Cisneros and Daniel Wood. Lathrop (1-1-3), a second-year varsity squad, nailed down its first win March 4 in the Buffalo Cup and is much improved from its winless 2010 campaign.