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Bulldogs fall short in round one
Turlock girls soccer
Isis Cosio battles for control of the ball during the Bulldog’s playoff game against Pleasant Grove (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Jenna Dean stood on the sideline at Turlock High’s Joe Debely Field, her high school career freshly concluded, answering every media question thrown her way.

The Bulldogs, seeded No. 6 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I girls soccer tournament, had just lost 2-1 to No. 11 Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove).

Dean, the team’s leading scorer, found the net early in the first half to put the Bulldogs ahead, but missed an opportunity in the 66th minute that would’ve leveled the score.

Even before the reporter had finished asking his question, Dean began nodding, knowing where the conversation was heading.

“That ball got under me a little bit,” said Dean, who signed a letter of intent to play at Sonoma State next season. “I was running too fast and I thought the ball was going to be played more in front of me. When it was played on my feet, it kind of caught me off guard.”

Dean paused momentarily to reset, and that pause was enough to throw her off ever so slightly. The ball sailed wide of the cage.

“I wanted to make it past the first round of the playoffs,” said Dean, tears beginning to well in her eyes. “It felt like we could have. I felt like we should have. I’m so proud of my teammates. They worked so hard. I really wanted this for the younger players.”

Turlock is loaded with younger players — having six freshmen, three sophomores and four juniors bodes well for the program’s future — and they fought over the final 15 minutes like a collection off savvy seniors.

Dean got off a crisp shot from 20 yards out in the 69th minute that just sailed over the crossbar. Three other credible attempts came in the final three minutes, but the PG goalkeeper made fine stops each time.

“I’m really, really proud off this group,” said head coach Nicole Lonergan, who guided her team to an undefeated Central California Athletic League championship in the regular season. “I’ve had this senior group since they were freshmen and I’m just disappointed for them.”

Pleasant Grove tied the game midway through the first half when freshman center-back Kylie Rocha, standing about 25 yards in front of her own goal, lofted a ball over the Turlock defense that found a sprinting Kyra DiBenedetto in the center of the field. The senior then crossed to freshman Adalynn Alley, who put it in for the equalizer.

“That’s something we worked on in practice,” said PG coach Rich Moorhouse, whose team advances to take on Delta League rival Franklin (Elk Grove). “It was great to see it go from practice into a game.”

Rocha and Alley teamed again for the go-ahead goal just seconds before the halftime whistle.

“I felt like we made two defensive errors in the first half tonight,” said Lonergan. “I thought our second half was a different story. But our future is bright with all our young players. They just need to take this loss and this feeling and learn from it.”