The 2018-19 season was great for both Turlock and Pitman High varsity boys soccer and they are trying to replicate their success heading into the new season.
The Bulldogs and Pride shared the Central California Athletic League title last season with 9-1 records, and both teams were among the best in the section and state.
“Last year was just amazing what we were able to accomplish. We knew we were going to be good, but didn’t expect to win 20-something games in a row or whatever it was,” said THS head coach Doug Sperry. “So, we lost some key guys, our two center midfielders, Isaiah and Beni, those guys were the foundation of our team for years and just great players and leaders. So, it is a different team for sure this year.”
“Last year I think we did pretty well and I think that was a lesson for us to learn in so many ways,” said Pitman head coach Memo Ramirez. “We lost in the semifinals, so I know how we can fix some of those little things, and these guys, this team… they are motivated. That is the number one thing is to get these guys to believe that they can do it, and so that is key… to believe and they are believing.”
Last season, both teams earned a berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I playoffs and reached the semifinals as the top two seeds in the playoff bracket.
No. 1 Turlock reached the section finale and earned a berth in the CIF State tournament. Unfortunately, Turlock fell in back-to-back games, including the section finale and the first round of the state tourney.
They went 22-3-3 overall and finished the year ranked No. 23 in the state and No. 88 in the nation.
This year’s Turlock squad is enthusiastic about repeating, or picking up where they left off, but that’s always a big challenge.
They are going to have to rely on the returning players, which include standout striker Luke Redman.
“Luke Redman, will be a key player for our team, and he is going to be our captain and we will lean on him a lot for experience and leadership, and someone that can score,” said Sperry. “We are young, the core of our team is going to be our juniors. We had seven sophomores up last year, all of whom will start this year. Our junior class is very talented and have a lot of experience playing varsity, so we are expecting a lot from those guys. Our back-line will be all juniors, but it is a talented group, so we will rely heavily on them and see what they can do.”
Turlock went all regular season without a loss until the final game where they picked up their first and only league loss at the hands of Pitman back on Feb. 6 in a 3-2 result.
Pitman earned a share of the CCAL in the process, while taking down their crosstown foe in the regular season finale and earning the No. 2 seed. They fell to the eventual section champions, No. 3 Jesuit, in the semifinal, 3-0.
The Pride ended their year with an overall record of 19-3 and finished No. 25 in the state and No. 90 in the country.
“Following the success we had last season, we now know what we need to do when we face strong teams and we can come out with a victory,” said Ramirez.
The Pride have nine players who are returning, including Felipe Lopez, Daniel Galdamez, Luis Manriquez, Angel Ruiz, Xavier Barajas, Issac Raya and Adrian Diaz.
“I have juniors that are coming up as well, very strong as well and they play a high level at their club. So, combined with the core, that is a strong team. I think this a stronger Pitman team than from previous years,” said Ramirez. “We have club and travel ball players, which helps a lot, especially when we play teams from Stockton and Sacramento.”
While Pitman graduated 10 from a year ago, half the team is returning. This is Ramirez’ first year as head coach, but he’s no stranger to the Pride team as he served as assistant the last couple years under Brian Hofsteen.
“Expectations are high and they believe in themselves. This is nothing new for them. Some of these guys play in high level club travel ball and under pressure and at a high level,” Ramirez added. “Their expectations are high and they are believing because they can; they play at a high level all year long.”
Pitman’s first game will be at home against Oakdale at 3 p.m. Dec. 3.
Turlock will next host Patterson at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 2.