It was a war of attrition when Turlock High hosted rival Pitman High in the final Central California Conference girls soccer match of the season on Thursday. The Bulldogs (10-2-3 CCC) entered the match with only a half a game lead over Merced High and needing a tie or a win to secure their fourth consecutive CCC championship. Still, Turlock hit the pitch aggressively looking to end its season in the winner's column before ultimately finishing in a deadlock with the Pride, 0-0.
“We wanted to win. We came out to win the game, but Pitman again always gives us a good game,” Turlock head coach Cathi Schali-Lopez said. “It was a battle throughout and we ended up, fortunately, with another CCC championship on our side.”
The Pride entered Thursday's match in fourth place in the CCC. With no hopes at a playoff berth its goal was simple: play the role of spoiler. Pitman did it's best to deny Turlock another CCC title with strong play from Rayana Plancarte, but every opprotunity that was afforded to Pitman was stuffed by Turlock's defense and it goalie Caitlyn Duval.
On offense, players like Kiana Mavis, Sophie Warda and Savanah Riddle kept the pressure on Pitman through both halves.
“It means a lot to us because we put in a lot of hard work, especially those of us who've been here all four years. But even those who haven't, everyone shows up to practice and works hard and we come together as a team, and that's how we win,” Riddle said.
Riddle — one of four four-year starters for the Bulldogs along with Natalie Larson, Ashlen Kuntz and Carissa Lopez — tweaked her knee in the final second of the first half, but fought through the pain to return to the pitch and see the contest through.
“It important for me to be on the field for my senior night,” Riddle said.
Turlock's offense picked up in the second half with several shots on goal from Warda and Mavis but each missed their mark. By the late stages of the second half it was announced that Merced had tied its game with Golden Valley High, 2-2, giving the Bulldogs piece of mind that their league title was secured win, lose or draw.
“It's an unbelievable feeling for these girls to go four years in a row and win four championships. It's outstanding,” Schali-Lopez said.
“Honestly, they put up a better fight than I was expecting because they were already kicked out of playoffs,” Riddle said of Thursday's match. “But since it's a crosstown rivalry everyone shows up to fight, whether you're in it for CCC or not.”
The race for first place in the CCC was a tight one as the season wound down with the Bulldogs and Bears sitting dead even atop league standings as the third and final round of league play began. Turlock pulled ahead of Merced by finishing 3-0-2 in the final round while the Bears (10-3-2 CCC) finished 3-1-1.
“In the third round, it's always a challenge to come out and play your hardest,” Schali-Lopez said. “Now our focus is for our playoff game on May 5th.”
Playoff brackets Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Championships are expected to be announced sometime today and Turlock is expected to host its first match.
“Our goal is to bring home a blue banner for THS,” Schali-Lopez said.
“I'm just so excited and I hope my team goes far and comes together,” Riddle said.