The girls’ soccer regular season could not have ended any better for Turlock and Pitman High as both teams met for the third time this season at Pitman with the game being one to remember.
It was a tough battle for both teams who played phenomenal on a day where the weather reached 95 degrees. Pitman was able to capture the game’s only goal in the 77th minute of play after Katie Hanf received a perfect through pass from Rayana Plancarte inside the penalty area and was able to beat the defender and drained the ball in the back of the net for the win.
“Well first of all it was a great battle between two great teams; Turlock is a very good squad and these games, most of the time it is about passion more than anything else,” Pitman assistant head coach Cesar Mercado said.
“I think it was a well fought game that could have gone either way. It was set to whoever scored that one goal would likely win,” Turlock assistant head coach Temo Arteaga said. “I prefer losing before heading into the playoffs because once you play in the playoffs you lose, you’re out, and this was a good awakening for us.”
Turlock finished their regular season first in the Central California Conference with an 11-2-2 league record while Pitman finishes third at 9-4-2 and have won four straight while Turlock has dropped two consecutive league games.
The passion was seen from both sides as the goalkeepers for each team were arguably the players of the game after each side saw numerous opportunities but the stingy play on the keeper’s part made it close.
Jaimee Ellison of Pitman was outstanding as she topped out with a dozen saves after Turlock struck 18 shots for the game.
Turlock keeper Ashlen Kuntz would tally up seven saves for the game after Pitman saw numerous open opportunities but only shot eight on goal.
“Usually whoever makes the least amount of mistakes usually wins and in this case, I told Jaimee that her and Ashlen Kuntz, were the players of the match, they were outstanding, especially Jaimee who had, in my mind, four phenomenal saves,” Mercado said about the keepers.
Ellison was able to punch out four balls over the cross bar after denying Turlock’s Morgan DeLay, three times, and Savanah Riddle once.
In the 55th minute, Mariya Fefilova of Turlock sent a cross to DeLay at the far post inside the 10 yard mark but couldn’t connect.
Five minutes later, Kayla Gilkinson received a neat pass from Estephanie Partida as she struck an uncontested shot inside the penalty area but her left footed volley sailed over the bar.
“We had our chances, they had their opportunities but they finished theirs and we didn’t so that is why you love soccer because you either take advantage of it or you don’t and today we didn’t so that’s the way the ball rolls,” Arteaga said about their missed opportunities.
Pitman also saw their fair share of opportunities early on in the first and the second half before notching the game winner.
Despite two tough defenses, the heat looked to take a toll on the players as in the final 20 minutes the field began to open up for both sides, equally.
In the 64th minute Plancarte had a breakaway opportunity as she sprinted down the middle of the field with nobody in sight but Kuntz was able to come out and contest the strike with a huge sliding save.
Less than 10 minutes later another chance came for the Pride after Plancarte made herself open at the top of the box from the right side and struck at the back of the net but it sailed up and over the bar.
The goal came with under five minutes left when Plancarte, who has outstanding breakaway speed, beat multiple defenders and it was her exquisite through ball that gave Hanf an open look as she struck the near post from the middle of the field.
“Katie Hanf was moved up to varsity as a freshman in the playoffs so it’s beautiful to see her finish off the same way here at home. The character that these girls have, I wish I could explain it in words. They are a phenomenal group,” said Mercado. “We have always been confident in our group it is just sometimes the results don’t indicate what happens on the field.”
Both teams will advance into the postseason with the CIF playoffs set to begin early next week.