Wednesday night marked a pivotal Central California Conference battle between Turlock and Merced High's girls’ soccer teams.
Heading into the game, both squads were tied for first place in the CCC with a 6-1-1 record and aiming to secure the outright spot with a win, however, the outcome became one that was unexpected for the Bulldogs of Turlock after they went up first.
Merced followed with a goal just five minutes after and the 1-1 stalemate resulted in the standings remaining intact as they were.
“It’s kind of hard to describe, it was a hard fought game, anybody's game, but in the end, the result was not what we wanted but it’s how it is,” said Turlock head coach Temo Arteaga. “I told the girls about the battle for first place and I think we both wanted it. We didn't lose; we are still in first place.”
Both sides are tied at 6-1-2 in the CCC after Wednesday's result.
Turlock and Merced tied in their first meeting back on Jan. 18 in a 1-1 final. Since then, Turlock had gone on a tear, winning four straight before losing their first CCC game of the year to Golden Valley Feb.3, 3-1.
“Monday's practice was extremely hard with conditioning since I saw the girls getting winded in the loss and then Tuesday we went light and I told the girls about playing for first place,” said Arteaga. “No matter what place we are in, just come out work hard and have fun because the game of soccer is fun.”
During their win streak, Turlock outscored their opponents 15-1.
On Wednesday, the stalemate against Merced stood well into the second half after a scoreless first half.
Finally 63 minutes into the game, Turlock’s Stephanie Zamora broke the defensive backline with a fast-break after a pass from Alicia Hill. Zamora then followed through with a 40-yard dash down the field, eventually beating the final defender and striking at the far side net on a one-on-one with the goalkeeper from 12 yards out to go up 1-0.
However, the lead didn't last long.
“I think after we scored the first goal, the team got excited and relaxed on defense and didn't pressure the ball when they had the ball,” said Arteaga.
Merced scored just five minutes after Turlock had gone up to keep up with the pace of the game.
The Bulldogs also missed on numerous opportunities, including Daisy Martinez who struck two headers on multiple set pieces in the first 18 minutes of the second half.
“We just have to finish the rest of the games and finish it, not just play for just 30 or 40 minutes and then kind of let down, we can't let that happen, especially going into playoffs,” said Arteaga. “The other schools and teams will take advantage of that.”
The next game for Turlock will be on the road to take on Buhach Colony at 3:30 p.m. Friday.