MANTECA — It was billed as a summit meeting of unbeaten soccer powers. To the Sierra High Timberwolves, however, it was personal.
Sierra, the Valley Oak League ruler before Sonora annexed the last three Sac-Joaquin Section titles, clearly rolled into Thursday night's showdown with a goal in mind — to take back what used to be theirs.
They did just that with four goals in the first half — three by senior co-captain Michaela Scott — to overwhelm the Wildcats 4-0 at Daniel Teicheira Stadium.
"We've been working up to this game," Scott said, and no one could doubt her words after the small storm Sierra (17-0-1, 6-0) poured on Sonora (11-1-1, 5-1) during the first 40 minutes. These programs had combined for five of the last six section championships, and fireworks were expected after they split their games last season.
The fireworks were lit, for sure, but only by one side. The Timberwolves graduated only one senior a year ago, and they clearly laid in wait for their rivals.
Sierra dominated the run of play from the first minute. Its opening goal in the 11th minute contained a bit of good fortune — Scott kneed in a shot off a deflection — but the Timberwolves already were applying constant pressure.
"Pretty amazing," summarized Sierra's Manuel Pires, the 15th-year coach whose team owned the VOL before Sonora's recent reign. "When we're clicking, this is one of the best offensive teams we've had in some time. The first half was outstanding."
Sierra's front line and midfield dictated all terms. The result was a three-goal explosion within an eight-minute span late in the half. The Sonora bench, blanketed and huddled against a cool wind, watched helplessly.
Sophomore midfielder Sydnne Koscielcki finished from point blank, then it was Scott three minutes later after an indirect free kick only five yards to the left of the net. Finally, Scott beat Sonora goalkeeper Bekah Garvin off a touch by Koscielcki.
Scott entered the game with 15 goals, 20 behind co-captain and San Francisco State-bound senior Nicole Vanni. Scott's all-around value crystallized, however, after Sonora centered its defense on Vanni.
"Scott always makes our offense work," Pires said. "I told the players at practice yesterday that we need other girls to score goals."
Sonora, which needed a lower-scoring game to be competitive, stabilized in the second half. That was heartening to first-year coach Denyse Garcia-McLaughlin, who already looks forward to the rematch on the fast synthetic turf of Dunlavy Field.
"They (Sierra) had something to prove in that first half, and we weren't prepared yet. We weren't ready for that pace of play," she said. "In the second half, our seniors Rachel Shelton, Hilary Callahan and Megan Martinelli were able to show the younger girls what it looks like."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.