So much for a rebuilding year.
Oakdale High was expected to take a step backward this year, after its soccer program graduated a senior class that celebrated three Sac-Joaquin Section championships the last four seasons.
But the Mustangs return to a familiar position today -- playing for a spot in the section final.
Oakdale (18-7-4) hosts West Campus of Sacramento (12-3-7) at 3 p.m. in a semifinal, with the winner advancing to Saturday's noon title match at Folsom High.
It's one of five semifinals today with Stanislaus District teams:
Division V pits the Western Athletic Conference against the Trans-Valley League: WAC winner Patterson (22-4) hosts Ripon (17-5-2) and TVL champ Escalon (20-3-3) hosts Livingston (11-4-2).
Unbeaten Waterford (20-0-5), which captured the school's first-ever playoff win Tuesday, hosts San Juan of Citrus Heights (8-7-2) in Division VI action.
In Division VII, Big Valley (17-2-1) visits Sacramento Country Day (17-6-1) and Tioga of Groveland (12-7-1) -- one of the section's smallest schools with 145 students -- entertains Faith Christian of Auburn (12-6-5).
It's been a streaky season for Oakdale, which won just three of its first nine matches before winning its final four Valley Oak League contests to win the title.
Oakdale has three consecutive shutouts and has allowed only 31 goals in 29 matches. Freshman Robert Gilbert has stepped in to fill the scoring void with 15 goals and seven assists, while senior Michael Glaeser has tended the goal after a broken foot forced him to miss much of last season.
While Oakdale has a history of celebrating, Livingston is pursuing its first crown. The Wolves fell in the section final the last two years, including a 2-1 loss in overtime to Hilmar last season.
Livingston has the edge in postseason experience against Escalon, which is making its first playoff appearance in six years.
Escalon is built for the playoffs, though, with an aggressive defense (just 14 goals in 26 matches) and a trio of skilled strikers who have combined for 42 goals.
Waterford's Carlos Navarette continues his pursuit of the state scoring title, after scoring twice Tuesday to raise his total to 54.
Calistoga's Edwin Meza has 57 goals, but his season ended in last week's 2-1 loss to St. Helena.
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.