Pitman High’s varsity boys’ soccer team is already in the playoffs, but Turlock who had been fighting in a third place battle for a majority of the season, had one final opportunity to sneak their way into the postseason, all they needed was to defeat Pitman in their final regular season contest.
The Central California Conference has been a battle for boys’ soccer all season long, with the exception of Atwater and Pitman, (9-4-2). Turlock (4-9-2) had two well played back-to-back games, and in this match the offense played a pivotal role in the outcome of Thursday’s game.
Turlock’s possession in the first 30 minutes was critical as the Bulldogs were attacking the Pride and preventing them to get any groove going offensively.
The defense for Turlock held Pitman until six minutes into the second half when Ricardo Casillas scored the Pride’s lone goal of the game.
Marcus DeCouto finally nudged the closer after a one-footed volley in the final minute of regulation but it was too late for a comeback, essentially ending the nail-biter in an acceptable 1-1 draw.
“It was kind of a bummer because we had so many chances in the first half unfortunately it just didn’t happen,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry. “They started to take advantage and it was a huge going with the wind as well so they were putting a lot of pressure on us, tons of guys up top.”
“When we stepped into the game we are thinking of the playoffs already and were looking to move some players around and get them in rhythm,” said Pitman head coach Oscar Mercado. “I think you always want to win and Turlock plays great games.”
Since losing to Atwater and Buhach Colony in two consecutive games, Pitman ended the regular season with two straight CCC wins and Turlock snaps their two game win streak to end the year.
Per usual, Turlock and Pitman always play against one another with a bit of a chip on their shoulders.
To say that Thursday was different would be an understatement because Turlock did not care about the record Pitman had; they came out and played very well in the first half, controlling the pitch and edging out Pitman with shots and potential goal opportunities.
After the first half, the Pitman defense and possession settled in and began to play their effective style, eventually notching in the first and only goal after Casillas sprinted down the corner of the 18-yard box and shot at the opposite side, putting the Pride up 1-0 after the 46 minute mark.
“Turlock, they can do a lot but when we scored we took the momentum for some time,” said Mercado about the goal.
After Pitman’s goal gave them some breathing room, Turlock just began to play out of sync, very different from the first half, and Pitman’s dominance was causing mistakes from Turlock.
“They finally capitalized on the opportunity and that was the difference that we have not been able to do all season, unfortunately,” said Sperry.
Pitman kept on pushing and nearly scored on numerous long shots but just stayed with their lone goal until the 78 minute when Turlock’s most effective player of the game, DeCouto, scored their tying goal after a one footed volley shot to the opposite corner.
Eventually time ran out in less than 90 seconds after and the game ended in a stalemate.
“We let them score and they put it in,” Mercado added. “Now we need to keep the commitment level there and confidence for the playoffs. Playoffs are a whole different tournament and you start all over again. Should be a great experience for the kids.”
“Our league is so good that if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities than we won’t win even if you let down for five minutes, you won’t unless you don’t make mistakes,” Sperry added.