The battle for first place in the Central California Conference varsity girls soccer standings is heating up.
Tuesday marked a key game for the top two teams in the CCC as Turlock (9-2-1) played host to Merced (8-3-1) in what turned out to be a very physical matchup at Joe Debely.
In the 66th minute of action Savanah Riddle placed a 45-yard free kick inside the box where Merced goalkeeper Jessika McClesky punched the ball out, but Kishauna Mavis was at the right place as the freshman knocked in the game winning goal to win it 1-0.
“I was really happy and I was looking for my sister [Kiana] for sure because I could hear her screaming my name to shoot it and get it in the goal and kind of speechless right now,” said Mavis who scored the game winner. “I am a bit overwhelmed.”
“It was a team effort, united we stand and played. Our seniors and leaders stepped up, they all played hard even with one man down,” said Turlock head coach Cathi Schali-Lopez. “We played together and we ended up with the win, which is marvelous, I'm so excited.”
Coming off a questionable loss last week to crosstown rivals Pitman, the Bulldogs rolled their sleeves up and got down to business against the Falcons of Atwater last Thursday before this critical matchup for first place against the Bears.
“We got together as a team and that game doesn't define who we are as a team,” Schali-Lopez said of last week's misfortune. “And we knew we needed to come out here, play united together and everything else would take care of itself and again our leaders stepped up and fulfilled that need.”
The senior leadership was what helped the Bulldogs sail away into the sunset with the victory thanks to goalkeeper Caitlyn Duval and center back Natalie Larson, who really took it to Merced and controlled their attacking attempts.
“I think we played well as a team and I think we definitely came out here to win and we did the job needed for that to happen,” said Duval.
Duval finished the game with seven saves, all of which were shots on target that could have gone in just as easily.
Larson, along with the help of Riddle, Kelsee Lamb and the entire back line for the Bulldogs, played as physical of a game as they have all season long and it showed especially playing with a man down for majority of the second half.
After a stalemate in the first half where each side saw equal opportunities, the Bulldogs were matching the intensity of the Bears who nearly scored on two shots earlier but just 10 minutes into the second half, Sophie Warda received a red card called after a controversial call against a Merced defender.
“That was a tough game, I will not say it was easy by any means,” Duval said. “They have a lot of really good players but I'm glad we all came together as a team and as a team effort we did well.”
Turlock out shot Merced 10 to seven despite being outnumbered but this seemed to only fuel the fire of the Bulldogs.
“Playing with a man down, it was tougher and not having the same speed up front but we still got it and made it work,” Mavis said. “I feel since we beat Merced that we have that mindset that we should be able to control the rest of the season, and have a 'we got this' type of mentality.”
Turlock was able to hold off the Merced offense with very little push. The Bulldogs also had trouble getting on the scoreboard, although a few times Kiana Mavis worked her way down the sideline but couldn't find the back of the net.
About five minutes before the goal, Kiana Mavis made back-to-back attempts to strike as she sprinted down the sideline on the right half and shot at the net but McCleskey was there for the save.
No easy opportunities came for either side but when Kishauna Mavis struck the goal with under 13 minutes left it was just what the Bulldogs needed.
“I have always played up and especially training with my sister [Kiana] her being a senior she has really helped me a lot throughout the season,” said Kishauna.
“Honestly I think it was an uplifting game and I don't think we will have a downfall so I'm excited for the rest of the season,” Duval added.
Turlock, who is now in first place in the CCC, will host Golden Valley at 6 p.m. Thursday.