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Bulldogs back in semifinals after another clean sheet
Turlock boys soccer 1
Turlock High’s Salvador Plancarte (21) scored both goals in Thursday’s 2-0 win over McClatchy in the quarterfinal round of the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

The Turlock High boys soccer team is back where they were a year ago, the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals, after defeating McClatchy from home on Thursday night in the quarterfinal round contest that ended in a 2-0 shutout. 

“I thought we played really well from the start of the game. We came out with a lot of energy and the guys seemed calm and comfortable,” said THS head coach Doug Sperry. “We got off to a good start and had some good opportunities and defensively played well, and I am just really proud of how well the guys played.” 

Turlock’s overall record improves to 21-3-1 while they have now won nine straight contests heading into the semifinal. 

The announcement for league awards was made official after the game and Sperry was named CCAL Coach of the Year. Junior Ethan Gardner earned MVP honors after notching eight goals and six assists in 10 league games played. 

Turlock boys soccer 2
Junior Ethan Gardner (20) earned MVP honors after notching eight goals and six assists in 10 league games played (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

Turlock goalkeeper Iosef Huitron was named the CCAL Goalie of the Year and Lucas Fontes of Turlock was named the Defensive Player of the Year. In total on the first and second team selections, Turlock has six players: Luke Redman, Alex Mejia, Salvador Plancarte, Alex Ayala, Preston Nguyen and Eduardo Garcia. 

The talent of the Turlock team as a whole was immediate and effective on Thursday. 

McClatchy struggled to maintain possession and heaved long passes that usually would get intercepted by Turlock’s aggressive and fast defense. 

In the first 80 minutes of action, Luke Redman of Turlock nearly saw an opportunity after a throw in from Alex Mejia that was tossed over 25 yards. 

Finally, at the 31st minute, Turlock’s Salvador Plancarte broke the stalemate open putting the ball in the back of the net on a header off a free kick. 

The ball was crossed from about 35 yards away and into the goalie’s box, which essentially saw Plancarte beat the keeper to a 50-50 ball and his perfect header placed the ball over the goalkeeper and to the back of the net to make it 1-0. 

Plancarte found the back of the net on a set piece after he drilled a rocket shot from about 20 yards away as he beat the keeper and hit the back of the net on the opposite side to go up 2-0. 

“That second shot from Sal you could not have hit it any better, there was no way that any one was going to save that, it was perfect, just solid,” said Sperry. “Sal had a great game and I am happy for him, it just shows that anyone on this team can just pop up out of nowhere and we can score in a lot of different ways. A lot of guys can put in goals in any game they play in.” 

Turlock held on to the 2-0 shutout for the final 40 minutes of action and their second straight clean sheet for goalkeeper Huitron. 

“They were defensively very solid and big, and kind of winning in the air, so I thought we had success when we put in on the ground,” said Sperry. “But our guys were going up and fighting for every ball and it just paid off in the end. It was one of those things where I think that extra hard work got us that goal which then opened everything up, gave us a little confidence and we could relax a little bit too and change the game.” 

Fourth seeded Turlock will next travel on the road to take on the first seed Jesuit High (21-1-1), which are ranked No. 4 in the state and No. 32 in the country, at 3 p.m. Tuesday. 

“I don’t know what to expect at this point, so first thing is we have to find out what the conditions are like, but we have played a lot of games in some pretty bad conditions this year, so it is nothing we haven’t gone through before, so we will be ready with whatever we deal with,” said Sperry. 

Turlock lost to Jesuit in the D1 SJS title game last year, 3-0. 

“They are super confident, like I mentioned before, a lot of these guys were here last year playing in the section finals as sophomores,” Sperry added. “They went through the whole experience and I think it already is helping their confidence, knowing that the level is going to continue to go up and up as we progress, we have a tough game next week, but we wouldn’t want it any other way so we are ready for them.”