A tie was going to be good enough for the Central Catholic High soccer team, but Stephanie Manseau had other thoughts.
The senior forward scored in injury time off a pass from Katelyn Ketchum, putting an exclamation point on the Raiders' 3-2 victory over defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Hilmar on Friday night at David Patton Field.
The host Raiders only needed a tie to win the Western Athletic Conference title and the home playoff berth that goes with it, but the win means they enter the section playoffs with a full head of steam.
It was a pretty goal by Manseau. The Raiders were on the counterattack, and Ketchum dribbled the ball down the right side, where she passed it to Manseau. As Hilmar goalie Krystal Gaglio charged, Manseau flicked it with her right foot into the left half of the net.
"This was important," Manseau said. "We really wanted to finish the regular season like this."
Central Catholic (17-5-2, 13-1-1) plays host to TVL runner-up Hughson in a first-round game May 13. Hilmar (20-4-2, 11-2-2), the WAC runner-up, plays at home as well. The Yellowjackets take on the Mother Lode League runner-up, almost certainly Bret Harte, on May 13.
Manseau's goal ended a back-and-forth game that saw each team come close with multiple chances to score. The Raiders clogged up the middle, controlling the tempo, for much of the first half. But Gaglio thwarted the Raiders with several nice saves.
Conversely, every time the Yellowjackets and speedy forward Blake Lopes could get in the open, they created chances.
"We knew the burden was on Hilmar," Central Catholic coach Marten Oliveira said. "They had to win for the league title.
"We knew how big this game was, too. We've had a collective lump in our stomach all week."
Neither team scored in the first half. But the final 40 minutes had plenty of fireworks.
About five minutes in, Raiders halfback Ronnie Biscevic scored after a cross bounced off a couple of players and onto her foot.
Five minutes later, Lopes broke free down the right side and crossed it to Noel Silveira, whose shot bounced off Central Catholic goalie Madison Oliveira and into the path of Sadie Ferrell, who put it away for the tie.
The teams traded goals yet again. In the 55th minute, Ketchum scored from about 10 yards away off a cross by Nicole Meyer. And with 10 minutes left in the game, Hilmar tied it up when Lopes crossed it to Silveira, who scored with a well-placed shot from her knee.
But the Raiders defense held strong after that.
Manseau finished it out with a flourish, a sliding kick into the left side of the net after the match had gone into injury time.
"We all put a lot of hard work into this," Manseau said. "We're playing pretty well right now, too."
Just in time for the playoffs.