After humbling the Pitman Pride for the fifth consecutive time, the Turlock High girls soccer players weren't celebrating in a massive dog pile or drenching the coach with a bucket of water. That stuff perhaps will be saved for later.
Instead the Bulldogs sat down on the grass of the Turlock Sports Complex field and listened to Doug Sperry, who became their head coach just a few weeks ago. But, undoubtedly, they were satisfied with the 2-0 win over their archival, though it required a full 80 minutes to finalize the triumph in their season finale on a blazing Monday afternoon, all in front of dozen of fans.
“It's a pride thing,” midfielder Alissa Dahl said.
With the victory, the junior and her Turlock teammates locked the No. 1 seed in the Central California Conference before the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs begin on May 14 and secured an unbeaten season at 18-0-3 overall and 10-0-2 in the league.
“They've always been our crosstown rivals,” Dahl said. “We seem to play with a passion more than any other game.”
The Bulldogs now have five conference titles in a row after Amanda Cervantes provided two crucial plays in the second half, first an assist to speedy forward Sara Latham for a score in the 51st minute followed by Cervantes' successful free kick right outside of the penalty box about 10 minutes later.
But they're far from being down. They want to return to the Section title game, which they played in two seasons ago. Maybe that's why they kept their celebration to a minimum Monday afternoon, only slapping hands and revealing genuine smiles after the game.
In other words, they're focused.
And that was the case early on for both teams, though the Pride seemed to have an offensive mind from the first whistle. Pitman created a number of scoring opportunities, highlighted by a couple of point-blank shots by Marissa Marable and a couple of free kick attempts that turned unsuccessful. The Pride produced more chances in the second half, with Hannah Verschelden escaping on a fast break for what looked like a score before Turlock goalkeeper Andrea Rosas dove for one of her 11 saves of the day.
“We dominated the first few minutes of the game, but we can't do anything about it now,” Verschelden said after the game. “I should have finished that one goal, but …” she said as her voice trailed off before uttering: “It's really bitter.”
On Monday, the Pride (13-6-2, 7-2-2 CCC) celebrated Senior Day, formerly saying farewell to goalkeeper Bianca Anaya, defender Andrea Galvan, midfielder Mayra Flores and forward McKenna Harris before finishing up the season today at Merced High (7-0-4 CCC), with the second and final playoff berth in the CCC on the line. Pitman needs a win to move on, while the Bears can settle for a tie or a win to face the top team in the San Joaquin Athletic Association.
Today's game starts at 4 p.m.
For the Bulldogs, they have more than a week to prepare for the postseason. They won't officially find out their opponent until all the records are finalized in the Tri-City Athletic League, which will send the No. 2 seed to play at Turlock. And they're heading into the playoffs without Dennis Bishop, the longtime Turlock coach who resigned on April 16 due to health reasons.
“There was a lot on the line today,” said Sperry, the interim coach.
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