STOCKTON -- At first glance, Whitney High's girls' soccer victory over Sierra would appear to be a monumental upset.
The Timberwolves were unbeaten and ranked No. 3 in the country heading into Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game. But the upstart Wildcats dominated Sierra for 80 minutes, coming away with a decisive 4-1 victory. So the term "upset" didn't really fit.
"They really took it to us in the first 30 minutes and we never seemed to get our game going," said Sierra coach Manuel Pires.
"You have to give them a lot of credit for coming out on fire, getting that first goal and getting even hotter. We were fortunate to be down only 2-0 at halftime."
Whitney (14-1-8,) a Rocklin school in its third year of existence, controlled midfield play and pressured Sierra's defenders with excellent attacking speed into the corners.
Junior forward Elizabeth Grover was the most active, scoring the first goal off a rebound of her own shot, and assisting on the second goal, scored by Rachel Walker just 23 minutes into play.
Sierra, which finished 26-1-2 and outscored opponents 145-7 before the final, was stunned.
"We got back on our heels and weren't able to win in the midfield," Pires said. "Their strikers ran our defenders ragged, they made the plays and they put the shots away."
The Wildcats added a third goal on a header off a throw-in in the 57th minute for a 3-0 lead, and kept the Timberwolves scoreless until the 68th minute, when Nicole Vanni scored her state-best 53rd goal, unassisted.
"We flew under the radar for a long time," said first-year Whitney coach Rich Donofrio. "Sierra is very dangerous, but they're a known entity. I don't think we'll be able to sneak up on anybody anymore."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.