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Bulldogs keep playoff hopes alive after topping Merced 9-5
Turlock girls 2
Allison Serratos of Turlock led the team with 10 steals, five assists and a goal during Wednesdays 9-5 win over Merced. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

The regular season is winding down for girls water polo and its win or no postseason possibilities for Turlock.

The Bulldogs took those words serious and they mounted a 9-5 road victory over Merced on Wednesday, backed by a demanding effort from the defensive side that flustered the Bears attack.

“We took the ball away from them and frustrated them,” said Turlock head coach Sonja Raynes. “I’ve been telling the girls to help one another in case one player drops down we can get one player to help out the other. But either way it worked for us.”

It worked out better than expected for the Bulldogs who capped off a 21-steal afternoon, with Allison Serratos leading the way with 10 of her own. She also finished with five assists and a goal.

“She was all over the place, everywhere, she is like a ball of energy jumping from one spot to another,” said Raynes of Serratos.

With the win, the Bulldogs are 6-4 in the Central California Conference and have won three straight league contests, including four of the last five.

“I don't want to jinx it,” said Raynes. “We just have to take it one game at a time.”

The Bulldogs humility has been evident for the year. They haven't taken anything for granted and Wednesday was no different as they head into the final two-game stretch, with both must-win games.

Before doing so, they had to execute an effective game-plan to top the Bears of Merced and it worked out after a little easing in. They were even without Caitlin Cornell who is a regular starter.

“I told the girls that we can't look past them, although we were a little rough,” said Raynes. “But then they started to help each other even with Caitlin out. The rest of the girls stepped up and had to change roles but began to take their shots.”

Turlock scored first, but the Bears went on to take a 3-2 lead heading into the start of the second quarter. They outscored Merced, 3-0 in the second and never looked back for the remainder of the game. Merced was held to two goals in the final three quarters.

Nicole Groteguth and Karissa Roof finished with three goals apiece and Kelly Weber added a pair of goals.

The duo goalkeepers for Turlock — Sam Cervenka and Olivia Cusenza — each played two quarters apiece. Cusenza added two blocks and Cervenka finished with four blocks.

“It is a luxury to have the duo keepers, it’s not often you get that,” said Raynes.

The Bulldogs’ final week of action won't be easy as they take on Buhach Colony and Pitman next week, starting with the Thunder at home at 5 p.m. Monday.

“Two tough games,” Raynes added. “The girls know they have to win out, every game is critical. We are just chipping away at it, getting better skills and everything.”