State

Modesto boys intent on defending its turf in soccer

Modesto High boys soccer coach Matt Mendez was raking a few weeds off the field at Modesto High on Thursday.

He was trying to make it look nice for today's 3 p.m. game against Buhach Colony High in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.

Two corners of the field are dirt from the softball fields and weeds tend to grow there.

Though dry grass patches scatter the field and no bleachers are on the sideline, it's still a home field and it's still an advantage.

"Being on our field is big because we need that advantage," Mendez said before practice Thursday. "Our guys are ready to play."

Buhach Colony (15-2-4, 9-1-2 Central California Conference) is the No. 2 seed in the CCC.

Modesto (13-8-2, 9-4-2), the Modesto Metro Conference champion, is hoping for a good start to the game because the team has struggled since it won its first seven conference games.

The Panthers won just two of their last eight games, including a 4-1 loss to Downey, the No. 2 seed from the MMC. The two wins were against Johansen High and Enochs High, which had a combined 8-23-4 record this season.

"I think (the win streak) got to our heads," said senior midfielder Steven Gutierrez. "We know we are a better team. We started to think (the season) was going to be a walk in the park."

Modesto was outscored 13-9 in its last eight games and outscored opponents 20-5 in the previous seven.

"I believe our guys thought we could go undefeated (in conference)," Mendez said. "There has been a letdown. We've had trouble finding out what is driving us. It's also momentum."

The Panthers hope to increase their scoring and make it to the championship game at Lincoln High School a week from Saturday.

They are led offensively by Jorge Esparza, who has 14 goals and three assists, and Victor Serrano, who had eight goals.

Buhach Colony has three players with 11 goals in Alex Lopez, Adrian Plascencia and Marcus Shaw.

Bee staff writer Scott Oxarart can be reached at soxarart@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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