Two of the top three varsity boys soccer teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section, Pitman and Turlock, squared off on Wednesday in a wet and muggy night that saw just a pair of goals scored between Turlock and Pitman High in a critical league meeting.
Sharing just a single loss and ranked in the top 23 in the state prior to the game, the anticipation for the game could not have been any higher as both squads are off to monumental starts.
Turlock was able to capitalize on some minor miscues as they scored a goal in each half and the defense held on for their ninth straight win while snapping Pitman’s winning streak of three to end it, 2-0.
“Any time we play Pitman, no matter our record or scenario, it is always a big game that everyone looks forward to, so there is always a little something extra, not just in soccer,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry. “I figured it would rain, but more worried about the wind, but nothing too bad, just a little here and there in the first half more so than anything.”
Heading into the game Turlock was ranked No. 11 in California and No. 49 in the country.
With the win, the ‘Dogs are now 13-0-3 overall and 3-0 in the Central California Athletic League.
Pitman fell for just the second time this year.
They were No. 23 in California prior to the game and No. 81 in the country.
“We were playing hard, just couldn’t capitalize. When those opportunities happen, we need to put it away, keep the momentum going since we have it,” said Pitman head coach Brian Hofsteen. “If we could have done that, then it would have been a different game.”
Following the loss, Pitman’s record goes to 10-2 overall and 2-1 in league.
It was also the first time that Pitman dropped a game since Dec. 19, 2018.
The Pride won three straight prior to Wednesday’s game.
The wind was subtle yet consistent while the rain stayed steady throughout the game, but none of it fazed a single player.
Going in they each knew the significance of this league game and a win was crucial.
There was a stalemate for the first 35 minutes of the game, until Turlock’s Jeremy Valenzuela found the back of the net after a free kick from just outside the corner of the penalty box.
Following the free kick, the ball ricochet off the post and into traffic in front of the goalie’s box.
From there, Valenzuela finally got the ball and with his right foot he shot it from about eight yards to make it 1-0.
Turlock led 1-0 at the half then with 12 minutes remaining, Beni Mejia ripped a right footed shot from about 26 yards out to the left side as he tucked it in gently for the second and final goal.
“I wasn’t too happy with how we moved the ball, played on grass and on here in a wet surface, but you think that playing at home on your field that it will be an advantage,” said Sperry. “Pitman came out with a ton of energy and prevented us from getting a whole lot of opportunities and when we had the opportunity, we put it away.”
The defense for Turlock was able to fend off Pitman attacks, except in the final minutes.
Pitman almost struck the back of the net on two occasions. First in the 79th minute when Felipe Lopez saw a wide-open net shot sail wide right. In stoppage time, Pitman saw multiple attempts taken within a minute frame, including a shot that bounced off the top post.
“We came out and practiced in these conditions the day before, so I think we were ready for that, but the wind did have a factor and the ball was on the other side of the field. We had our opportunities and we couldn’t capitalize on it,” Hofsteen added. “They can bounce back, which I know our kids can do, excellent chemistry with these guys, they know how to play with each other and they need to keep their heads up and move on to the next game.”
Pitman will next take on Gregori High on the road at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Turlock’s next game will be at home against Modesto High at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“From anytime I can remember, we are certainly off to one of the best starts ever and it is good, but it comes with other pressures, but this group, it doesn’t seem to make a difference to them,” Sperry added. “They thought and believed they would be good from day one and on and off the field they have a lot of confidence in themselves and they keep winning. This is a great group of guys, the deepest group of guys, since we don’t have a drop with our second, third and fourth guys in line and we’ve been pretty much injury free all year. Yoou put all that together with this talented group, good things are going to happen.”