Pitman High's varsity soccer team found it tough to find the back of the net in the first half of Tuesday's penultimate Central California Conference contest of the season when they met Merced for the third time this season.
After being shutout in the first half, Pitman's retaliation in the second led to the Pride performing up to their standards, playing physical and beating down the other team with possession and accurate strikes.
Once Edward Olivera scored the Pride's first goal at the 58 minute mark, the Bears of Merced just couldn't find a way to cut through the determination of Pitman's defense and press.
Ramsin Larios put it away with his second goal before the Pride notched their third in the closing minutes to edge out Merced for the second consecutive time this season, winning it, 3-1, in their regular season home finale.
“We didn't score... it’s as simple as that,” said Pitman assistant coach Sergio Sousa about the first half.
The win also snaps a two-game losing streak. With the win, the Pride will finish second in league, with a CCC record of 9-4-1 heading into their final game.
“It was arguably the best game we have played all year,” said Sousa. “The difference is we had opportunities but we didn't put it away. Their keeper made some great saves, but we were not as clutch as the second half.”
The second half was the Pride's for the taking and they played like they wanted it, dominating the pitch, causing Merced to play uneasy especially after Olivera's right footed volley goal.
Once the Pride tied it at 1-1 just 18 minutes into the second half, the intensity picked up for Pitman.
They were set on a mission—to score and win.
The defense stepped it up with the back corners playing excellent defense and the middle causing Merced problems.
Pitman continued to push and press and before they knew it, just four minutes after scoring their first goal of the game, Larios took a Fernando Salas pass inside the penalty area and landed a finesse shot to go up 2-1 with 18 minutes left in the game.
“We defended better and talked about cleaning the middle and went inverted wingers and our runs were not wide but more in the center,” said Sousa of the second half adjustments. “We had bigger numbers in the box and maybe that’s why we were able to be more clutch.”
In the closing seconds, a fastbreak caused Merced to play one defender against three of Pitman's attackers and Salas found the back of the net after a swing pass from Brandon Pineda, closing the doors to Merced's comeback chances for good.
Seconds after the goal, a scuffle broke out between a handful of players from both sides, causing red cards to be handed out, four for Pitman.
“If it stands then somebody who is not full time will have to step in and that is why you give these kids minutes early on in the season,” Sousa added.
Pitman's next game will be their season finale against Turlock at Joe Debely at 7 p.m. Thursday.