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Manteca salvages tie with Morris Hail Mary shot
Mantecas Avgail Mayen gets the ball knocked away by Sierra defender Toree Iniquez. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

Manteca High was minutes away from a crippling loss Tuesday at Sierra’s Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.

With both teams on the bubble for a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth, it was Sammie Morris’ desperation shot in the 76th minute that helped Manteca escape with a 2-2 draw. She admitted after the game that as impressive as it looked, a little luck went her way.

From the left sideline, Morris lofted the ball into the air from about 35 yards out and let the wind handle the rest. It carried and carried some more, catching the Sierra defense by surprise and settling into the right panel.

Morris may have been the most surprised.

“It was a Hail Mary, that’s all it was,” Morris said. “It was ‘I’m going to kick it and hope that it gets there.’ I’m not really an outside shooter, I like to get closer to the goal because it’s more of a sure shot. I just figured I’m going to put it up and see where it goes and maybe get it on frame.”

It could be the goal that qualifies the Buffaloes (6-3-1 Valley Oak League, 14-5-1 overall) for the postseason while knocking hard-luck Sierra (3-5-2, 7-7-4) out of contention. They remain a point ahead of Oakdale for the third and final spot, but Oakdale has played one less match. They play in Oakdale on April 25.

“We played super hard, and I think this was one of the tougher games that we had to fight through,” Morris said. “We needed to win this one but getting at least the tie in the end was really important.”

It was a typical match between the bitter rivals, who have now tied four of their last five meetings. Physical play led to 20 fouls, though three certainly were a few others that were not called. Four players were booked, and a player from each squad received red cards.

“It was a high-intensity game, and I expected nothing less from both sides,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “They left it all on the field.”

Several Timberwolves dropped to the turf out of frustration soon after the final whistle. That’s because they played one of their best games and came away empty handed.

“It’s tough. We really wanted to beat Manteca High, but I think we played well,” Sierra’s Jessica Cuenca said. “We had them.”

Cuenca, playing with a sore ankle buried an open shot on the game’s first attempt in the second minute. Her sister Esmeralda, who plays for Manteca, tied it up with a deflection of Morris’ free kick.

The Timberwolves recaptured the lead in the 23rd minute. Sydnee Canales’ corner-kick cross was initially batted away from Manteca goalkeeper Kianna Bristow, and Alexis Young was there to head it in.

Sierra had a chance to win it on the final play. Patricia Angel pushed a through ball into the penalty area, but Bristow got to it before Tiffany Quezada could get a foot on it.

“Tiffany was a half foot away from being first to that ball,” Pires said. “I had a feeling that we were going to need a third goal to come away with a win, and unfortunately that’s what it came down to.”

East Union 2, Weston Ranch 1

A second-half save from goalie Ashley Almeida preserved a needed win for East Union (8-1-1, 15-1-1), but it was costly. She sustained a cut over her right eye and was rushed to the emergency room to have it treated.

The Lancers struck in the opening minute when Isabella Cardenas scored off of Claudia Arevalo’s throw-in. Kayla Lamont set up Meghan Wallace’s breakaway goal in the nine minutes later. Weston Ranch (1-9) cut the lead in half with a penalty kick in the 30th minute.

“It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but it was three points in the win column,” East Union coach Jim Todd said. “At this point that is all that matters. Weston Ranch is the best I have ever seen them.”