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Mejia’s goal punches Turlock’s ticket to the section final
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The Turlock High boys soccer team celebrates after defeating Whitney High, 2-1, in Tuesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I semifinal game (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

Beni Mejia scored the go-ahead goal in the 78th minute and the Turlock High boys soccer team punched their ticket to the Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game after defeating No. 4 Whitney High from home on Tuesday in the Division-I semifinal game, 2-1.

“The goal by Beni was amazing, I mean there are no words to describe, just heart and effort. He has been our leader all year and I don’t know what to say… somehow he managed to find a way to get through five guys, it was awesome,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry.

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Turlock High’s Alex Ayala sprints down the opposing side during Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Whitney in the semifinal game of the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

It was awesome, but it also took persistence from a Bulldogs team that has only been down once this year —to Pitman.

On Tuesday, Turlock came out and were uneasy in the first half, which essentially led to Whitney taking a 1-0 lead into halftime. Turlock was also called for three yellow cards in the first 34 minutes.

“We just didn’t look like ourselves in the first half, just couldn’t get a rhythm going and playing a lot of long ball,” said Sperry. “Give them a lot of credit, I thought they played really well in the first half and took us out of our game. There were a few opportunities but didn’t create much, just weren’t ourselves. I’m just hoping to come out in the second half the way we did, no major changes, just more energy and our guys were more relaxed.”

The second half was a battle which seemed to go back and forth for over 20 minutes.

It wasn’t until the 68th minute that Turlock finally notched a goal and tied it at 1-1 after a free kick from Mejia set up Isaiah Johnson nicely in the goalie’s box.

From there he managed to get a touch on it after the keeper got his finger tips on it and the ball hit the inside part of the post, grazed the side net and bounce out.

All the momentum was in Turlock’s favor at this point as they began to press and put pressure on the Whitney defense until they broke again.

It took 10 minutes for Mejia to plow his way through nearly half a dozen defenders from about 30 yards out and then from about 10 yards he struck the back of the net, placing the ball nicely in the far corner net after ripping it with his right foot.

“Our guys kept talking about this game and they were overly excited, second half they relaxed and you saw the momentum goal and go from there,” said Sperry.

Heading into the game, Turlock was ranked No. 9 in California and No. 43 in the country.

Turlock’s overall record currently stands at 22-1-3.

Last time Turlock reached the SJS final was in the fall of 2012.

Turlock will face No. 3 Jesuit for the D-I SJS title on Thursday at a time and place yet to be determined.

“We know the deal and at this point everybody is going to be a really good team. We played Jesuit once and already beat them, so I know they don’t lose a lot of games and have been looking forward to this game like we have and our guys will be ready. They don’t back down from a fight, they will be ready to go,” Sperry added.