When coach Josh Fritz wanted to put some additional firepower into Modesto High's attack, he figured McCutcheon's aggressiveness would make her an ideal choice.
McCutcheon is making her coach look pretty wise, as she celebrated her first hat trick with a three-goal performance in a 4-0 victory over Modesto Metro Conference rival Davis. She also scored a goal in a 2-0 win over Enochs, as well as assisting on the only other goals scored in each game.
"Erika is a very aggressive player with a lot of skill," said Fritz, whose Panthers are in second place. "Erika's goals have come outside the (18-yard box), with shots leaving her foot with max power.
"Last year she played in the midfield as a center midfielder, and this year she plays on the right side midfield. She has stepped up to be a captain and leader for some of our younger players."
Ochoa struggled against the Valley Oak League's top players a year ago, going 2-4 in singles play against league champion Manteca and losing to another Buffalo in the quarterfinals of the VOL tourney.
How things have changed.
Ochoa rolled through the Buffaloes' best last week, winning all three matches -- including a 6-0 victory over Mostafa Aniss, last year's league MVP. A sophomore, Ochoa also was 3-0 vs. Oakdale.
"To beat all three Manteca kids in one day you have to be mentally prepared, and last year as a freshmen he was physically ready but not mentally," coach Brian de la Porte said. "However, over the past year Luis has really matured mentally. Last year he lacked confidence at times and it probably cost him a few matches, but this year he has total confidence and he's just now starting to show signs of what type of tennis player he can become."
Encountering heavy traffic on the field isn't enough to deter McFadden from her ultimate goal -- which is to attack the goal.
"Ranae is at her best in close encounters," assistant coach Bryce Perkins said. "She is superb at dribbling through a crowd and utilizes deceptive cuts, reverses and crossover moves to deceive opponents. Her most impressive goal this season was a dazzling drive through five Escalon defenders to record a decisive goal against Ripon's rival."
That was one of two goals the sophomore striker scored in the 3-0 win over Escalon, then she had two goals and two assists in a 7-0 win over Riverbank.
McFadden has 14 goals and four assists in six games.
"As a freshman, she would succumb to on-field emotion and rowdiness from opponents, and would pick up penalties or cards," Perkins said. "As a sophomore Ranae is more focused and not easily distracted."
Riverbank track and field
The impressive runs and low times continue for Bruins senior Fernandez.
Last Thursday, he competed in the TVL/WAC Challenge, a meet between the two leagues on Patterson's new all-weather track. He won the 800-meter run (1:57), the 1,600-meter run (4:20) and the 3,200-meter run (8:53.6); then he closed out the meet with a 53-second split in the 4x400 relay.
His time in the 3,200 was 9 seconds faster than last year's winning time at the CIF State Meet, and one of the fastest times in the nation this year. Earlier this year, he ran a 4:06.1 1,600-meter split in the distance medley relay at the Sierra Invitational. That time was faster than last year's state championship run as well.
Next week, he leaves for Edinburgh, Scotland, for the World Junior Cross Country Championships.