Things will be interesting in the Central California Conference for varsity girls soccer heading into the start of the 2017-18 season—the final season in the league for Pitman and Turlock High.
Pitman welcomes first year varsity head coach Annabel Perez, who is a Pride alumna. Turlock loses the best goalkeeper from a year ago in the CCC (Jadyn Tubbs), and is already dealing with offseason injuries to key players, according to head coach Temo Arteaga.
It will be hard to repeat as league champions for the Bulldogs of Turlock, but across town at Pitman, the Pride look to be as hungry as ever and coach Perez seems confident in her first season that her talented squad will be in the mix and could surprise some teams.
“This season, to be honest, our goal is to make playoffs,” said Arteaga. “We don't care if we come in second place in the CCC…They have experienced some heartbreak the last few years and we want to continue building that strong program.”
“These girls are great. There is no drama which is good, but these girls are from two club teams so they have known each other for a couple of years having played together,” said Perez. “They communicate well and there are no clicks, it helps a lot and we have five seniors on the squad, which we will rely heavily on.”
Turlock ended the year with an overall record of 14-2-3 and atop the standings with a 9-1-2 record, winning the CCC title outright.
The Pride concluded last season with an overall posting of 10-8-4 and 5-5-2 in CCC play. This earned them a fourth-place position in league.
Turlock will return a bulk of its squad from a season ago, at least on paper.
“We have a lot of returners, but it is different because we had some offseason injuries with some girls out. They were starters last year, so now we are trying to find the pieces that we are missing,” said Arteaga. “It is going to be hard. It will hurt us a little bit. We will need some sophomores and juniors to step up and hopefully cover the gaps we are missing.”
Turlock will have the luxury of returning one of the best midfielders in the area in Daisy Martinez, the team’s catalyst and top contributor on the pitch.
There was a point last year when Martinez scored six goals and assisted two in just a four-game span.
The Pride boast a veteran squad with plenty of experience, including seven seniors, but the center piece will be Isabella Shallou-Enes who enters her third year at the varsity level, having started since her freshman year.
Along with Shallou-Enes’ ability to be a difference maker, Perez seems more than confident that with the depth she has, this squad could be a special group.
Perez also has the luxury of coaching alongside her father, who will be assisting.
“I also love coaching with my dad, we are one together,” Perez added. “Where I am lacking he is not, and where he lacks I fill, so we love it. We’ve seen these girls play since club and we have a great turnout with returners and we look strong. I do think we are strong in the midfield and we have lots of numbers up top that can finish and they work well together.”
Pitman will travel to Downey High to take on the Knights at 5:15 p.m. Monday.
Turlock's first game will be a home game against Johansen at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday.