The 2014 season was arguably one of the most exciting years for high school sports in the area and it wasn’t any different in varsity girls soccer.
Both Turlock and Pitman High finished top three in the Central California Conference and each were able to clinch postseason berths, but unfortunately that is where it ended for both sides.
Finally back on the pitch for the 2015 campaign, both local teams are eager to make a deeper postseason push this time around.
Turlock topped the CCC title last year with an 11-2-2 league record and allowed only 10 goals in 15 CCC contests.
In his first year as the head coach for Pitman, Cris Castro led his team to a third place result in the CCC at 9-4-2 just behind Merced (10-3-2).
Turlock returns 15 players from last year’s roster, 10 of which played a significant amount of time for head coach Cathi Schali-Lopez.
“Our goal last year was to get out of the first round, but we were plagued by injuries near the end of the season,” Schali-Lopez said. “At the end it was difficult to get a hold of it because we didn’t have our starting players out there to deal with what we had.”
Unfortunately, Turlock lost to Lodi, 1-2, in the first round but with the help of a large pool of seniors they know what needs to be done this time around.
“We are starting to work together as a cohesive group,” said Schali-Lopez. “We have a great camaraderie and respectful girls that enjoy playing with one another.”
Turlock will also roster four players who have been on the varsity team since their freshman year.
They are Ashley Kuntz, Natalie Larson, Carissa Lopez and Savanah Riddle.
Along with a pool filled with talented players, Turlock is looking as intimidating as ever with its experience, especially on the back-line led by Larson.
Along with Larson on defense will be Fallon Beaber, Mayra Vasquez and newcomer Veronica Hernandez.
“Really, we had quite a bit of seniors last year but we also have a lot this year,” Schali-Lopez said. “Our defense is solid. All together we look to be playing solid after the two scrimmages I have seen so far.”
Caitlyn Duval will be the goalkeeper and sophomore Sophie Warda returns after a sensational freshman season. Also, Kelsee Lamb is set for a comeback after suffering an injury last year.
The lone freshman on this year’s team is Kishauna Mavis.
“Of course our goal is always to make the playoffs in that bracket, but our CCC will be tough competition and our focus is one game at a time and improving throughout the season,” Schali-Lopez added.
Pitman had one of the youngest teams last season, and will again this year, as the Pride have only three seniors. But with the success from last year, there is no doubt that this Pride team is more experienced and mature than their age might imply.
“Given that we were such a young team last year, we did an outstanding job and they exceeded my expectations and played like juniors or seniors,” said Castro. “They played like veterans...the fact that we made the playoffs with a young team it was a successful year; it was.”
Led by playmaker and captain Rayana Plancarte, and with Serena Walls, Liz Perez, Marlowe Embry and Alexis Castro anchoring the back-line, the Pride look to edge out their crosstown rivals, or perhaps, at least stay in the mix.
“What parents can expect to see from this team is that they are committed and together and that they will always see a team that is playing hard from the first whistle to the last,” Castro said. “That’s what we are hoping to instill and that is what we hope for — start hard and finish hard.”
Pitman and Turlock will compete in the Pitman Tournament this weekend to kick off the new year.