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Its a new season, but soccer teams have same goals of reaching playoffs
PHS soccer pic1
Pitman High’s Iatziry Sanchez runs down the sideline during a recent practice, in preparation of league action this week. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal

To say the least, there will be some shakeups in high school girls soccer this season.

The five teams in the Turlock area have all gone through some changes, as all of them look to adjust and learn with each game. Some have playoff aspirations, while others aim to be competitive every time they step on the field.

So far, Pitman High has shown a lot of potential. After three Central California Conference games, the Pride are 3-0 with all of the wins coming in shutout fashion, thanks to the goalkeeping of sophomore Sierra Miller. They’re also 10-3 overall, with hopes of reaching the postseason.

The Pride fell short the last two seasons.

“We have high expectations for this season and a highly motivated group,” said coach Oscar Mercado, whose captains are Karina Maldonado and Hannah Verschelden. “We lost three starters, which makes this group cohesive on the field. However, the players that left were four-year varsity players that will be missed. (They will be) handing down a wealth of experience the program is grateful for.

“As every team in our highly competitive league, we will compete for the league title.”

A few miles away at Turlock High, the Bulldogs are experiencing a new era after having longtime coach Dennis Bishop resign because of health reasons. His replacement is Cathi Schali-Lopez, a Turlock area coach who is taking over a program that reached last season’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals.

This season, the Bulldogs are 5-4-1 and 1-1-1 in the CCC after losing a close 5-4 game to Golden Valley High on Tuesday. In that game, Turlock showed its depth by having four different scorers. Even though they’re adjusting to a new coaching staff, the Bulldogs have an experienced group in players likes Minnie Dahl, McKenzie Doo, Andrea Rosas, Bridget Montes, Emily Thompson, Channing Wilson, Macie Ireland and Kaitlyn Ireland.

“We’re working on a transitional year,” said Schali-Lopez, whose Bulldogs will play home games at the renovated Debely Stadium this season. “Their goal is to get to the playoffs and our goal is to help them get there.”

Turlock Christian will look to improve from a solid 5-6-1 season, while fellow Southern League foe Denair High will work with a number of new faces to go along with returners such as Cortnee Kinerson, Annissa Turpi, Esmer Gonzalez, Kristen Andersen, Irene Gutierrez, Chelsea Wooten, Fabio Gonzalez and Andrea Aguilar.

Hilmar High is also going through a transitional year after losing prolific scorer Haylee Bettencourt to graduation. But this season’s Yellowjackets boast such talent as Mariah Vitoria, Victoria Whitford, Jamie Rocha, Janessa Mitchell, Lexie Cico and Ashley Rodriguez, as all of them hope to make a postseason run.

“The thing is,” Hilmar coach Louie Bettencourt said, “I tell them we really don’t have any superstars. We have a lot of talent. We’ve got to know how to work together, how to mesh together.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.