BY JOE CORTEZ AND CHRIS CORREA
Pitman, Enochs and Turlock finished 1-2-3 in last year’s Central California Athletic League girls soccer standings and those three teams figure to once again be in the middle of the conference title chase.
Turlock and Enochs were bounced in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, while Pitman advanced all the way to the semifinals of the D-II bracket, before falling to eventual champion Whitney (Rocklin).
Coach: Annabel Rangel, fourth season
2021 record: 19-3-2 overall, 8-1-1 CCAL
Key losses: Mya Sanchez, goalkeeper; Camila Stephens, midfielder; Maya Mello, defender; Isabella Green, forward and defender; Lola Strangfeld, defender; Hannah Delay, midfielder and forward
Key returners: Lilliana Rodriguez, junior, midfielder and forward; Valeria Arroyo, junior, midfielder
Next game: Nov. 29 vs Central Valley, 5:45 p.m., Central Valley High Soccer Field 1
Outlook:One of the things that is synonymous with the girls varsity soccer team at Pitman High is winning. Last season, the Pride secured their third straight Central California Athletic League title before making a deep playoff run in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, where they lost to eventual Section champion Whitney High. This season, they’re eyes are on the CCAL crown once more under fourth-year head coach Annabel Rangel.
Rangel explained that some of the keys to having such consistent success is recent years has been the development of talent throughout the entire program. She admitted that things could get tricky as they try to replace all six of their senior starters. Perhaps the most significant loss will be goalkeeper Mya Sanchez, who has since gone on to play at Oregon State.
“All the seniors we had last year were starters, so we had to fill in some spots. We have a lot of returners this year and a lot of sophomores coming up, though, so I think we’ll be okay,” Rangel said.
Some of the players returning to the varsity roster include Lilliana Rodriguez and Valeria Arroyo. The two will be looking to take charge offensively while sophomore and first-year varsity player Karen Perez will look to help hold things down on the defensive side of the ball.
“The girls have great chemistry and they’ve been working really hard this year to build that with the new players,” Rangel said. “I’m excited and I think we’re ready to go.”
Of the Pride’s five preseason matchups, one game will be against Whitney. Rangel hopes that her girls can continue to gain experience against the familiar playoff rival.
“We want to get the ball rolling and develop a little more,” she said. “It’ll be good for us to get out there and play with Whitney before CCAL play starts.”
The Pride will start the preseason on Nov. 29 against Central Valley, officially kicking off their title-defending 2022-23 campaign.
Coach: Nicole Lonergan, third season
2021 record: 15-5 overall, 7-3 CCAL
Key losses: Kylee Redman, forward, UC Davis.
Key returners: Jenna Dean, senior, center-forward; Abby Tucker, senior, goalie; Anika Olive, senior, defensive midfielder; Gracie Ronveaux, senior, outside-forward; Emma Schwinden-Russell, senior, center-back; Cylee Cowell, junior, outside-forward.
Next game: Monday vs. Beyer, 3:30 p.m., Joe Debely Stadium
Outlook: Even though Bulldogs coach Nicole Lonergan characterizes 2022-23 as a rebuilding year after the graduation of 13 seniors, including team MVP Redman, expectations remain high.
"I still think we have a core returning group this year,” said Lonergan. “I don’t see any reason we don’t make the same kind of run this year.”
Last year’s run resulted in a third-place CCAL finish that landed a spot in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, where they lost 2-0 to Tracy in the opening round.
Dean, who signed a letter of intent last week to play collegiately at Sonoma State, will the centerpiece for Turlock. She finished with 29 goals and 10 assists last year on her way to winning league MVP honors.
“She is definitely a dynamic player on our team who makes a huge impact every moment she’s on the field,” said Lonergan, who played at St. Mary’s College between 2010 and 2013.
The Bulldogs will be young this season, with five freshman and three sophomores on the roster, but the returning seniors have stepped into leadership roles.
Center-back Schwinden-Russell, who did not play last year due to an ankle injury, has taken a pair of freshmen under her wing.
“Even though she was out last year, she has sort of stepped into this commanding role on our back line,” said Lonergan. “She has a presence, someone who’s confident on the ball. And with the freshmen back there, she really just makes them feel comfortable and confident. It’s clear that we were missing her last year.”
Ronveaux, who wasn’t a starter last year but was a pivotal sub, will play a larger role this year.
“I think she learned a lot in the role she played last year and now stepped into leadership role on team,” said Lonergan.
Cowell, who will start as a junior, transferred to Turlock last season and had to sit out half the season per the section’s transfer rule.
“She came in last year as a sophomore and a transfer with a lot of seniors on the team — including one going to UC Davis — and quickly proved why she should be on the field,” said Lonergan. “She’s going to be a force in goals and assists this year. She’s a quick, speedy forward that’s hard to deal with.”