Big events on local docket

OAKDALE -- Buhach Colony High, which has won nine of its last 10 matches and is atop the Central California Conference, will be among the contenders Saturday at the Oakdale Volleyball Invitational.

The 17-team event begins at 8:30 a.m. at Oakdale High and Oakdale Junior High. Other contenders include Downey, the host Mustangs and Bret Harte.

WATER POLO -- Johansen's girls water polo team, coming off its second-place finish at the Pacific Northwest Tournament, takes another challenging road trip this week to play in the Northern California Championships in Palo Alto.

Johansen (11-1) was handed its first loss in Saturday's final of the Pacific Northwest event, losing 8-4 to host Newburg, Ore.

The NorCal event traditionally pairs the region's top 16 teams and is hosted by Palo Alto and Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton.

Pitman, second in the Stanislaus District rankings, will also be in the tournament. The Pride lost 10-9 to Johansen the first week of the season.

Johansen faces Rio Americano of Sacramento, Menlo-Atherton and Palo Alto in Friday's first round, and Pitman meets Buchanan of Clovis, St. Francis of Sacramento and Menlo. Each will play two matches Saturday, as well.

The tournament's top seeds are St. Francis and Rio Americano of Sacramento, Sacred Heart and Miramonte of Orinda.

CROSS COUNTRY -- If you're a running fan, a difficult decision awaits you Wednesday. The region's top small-school runners will be in the Escalon Invitational at Woodward Reservoir in Oakdale, while Modesto faces Davis in a key Modesto Metro Conference meet at Legion Park.

The Escalon race is a good barometer for runners trying to lower their times before the postseason begins Nov. 1 with the Sac-Joaquin sub-section race.

Bret Harte and Riverbank are likely to fight for the boys title -- Riverbank's German Fernandez is among the nation's elite, according to Dyestat, the online ranking service -- while Bret Harte has the girls team to beat.

The MMC title should be decided when Modesto and Davis -- two of the section's top boys teams -- meet. Modesto is led by Matt Maldonado, an all-district runner as a junior, and the Panthers have won five consecutive conference championships.

The Modesto and Davis girls teams could be going for a title, as well. Modesto beat Beyer a week ago, and a victory here could all but seal the title. If Davis wins, though, it still has a meet remaining with Beyer.

GOLF -- Sierra's Julie Shutler defends her title in today's 21-team Sierra Invitational at Manteca Park Golf Course.

Last year, Shutler beat Beyer's Marina Martinez -- The Bee's three-time Golfer of the Year -- by a stroke. With Martinez having graduated, Shutler is a contender for the honor this year.

Defending section Division IV champ East Union, which routed the field a few weeks ago to win the Merced Invitational, is the team favorite and has one of the top players in Krysta Clark.

The field includes Johansen's duo of Christine Uhalde and Allyssa Pena, Beyer's Katie Canadas, Golden Valley's Belen Hernandez, Bret Harte's Kristen Locke and Turlock's talented Emily Szabo and Spencer Heller.

SOCCER -- The Valley Oak League race took a twist when Central Valley forfeited three games after playing an ineligible transfer. The Hawks tied Manteca and Oakdale, and beat Sonora -- and now all three are losses.

That leaves Manteca in first with 15 points, with Oakdale and East Union tied for second with 12. That's expected to change, as well, as Manteca and EU alerted the section that they will be forfeiting matches -- Manteca will announce its forfeits today -- due to ineligible players.