The past two years have been a roller coaster of success for Turlock high school soccer teams.
In 2012, Turlock won the Central California Conference and Pitman finished fourth, missing the playoffs at 4-3-5. Last year, Pitman finished first with a 12-3 CCC record and Turlock was second to last at 6-9, missing the postseason.
With the 2014 year just underway and practices starting this week, both local schools hope to make a splash in arguably one of the most competitive conferences in the valley.
“This new year we expect the kids to keep improving throughout the season and at the end to get better as a player and person,” said Pitman assistant head coach Cesar Mercado. “We hope to be able to be part of a group because we learn a lot about being in a team sport and how to work hard as a team.”
Pitman's senior heavy 2013 squad, boasting nine on the roster, took the league title and made it to the Division I section semifinal game. The Pride fell in the semifinal match against Granite Bay.
“We're always a little more modest with our predictions, but we were good to compete for the title and throughout the season the group grew as the season went on,” Mercado said. “When we went to playoffs we got a high seed but unfortunately didn’t make it through the next round.”
Although only five returners are back, the team will rely on their leadership.
With such a large number of seniors gone the team now looks to Ricky Ramirez and Brayan Perez for leadership, along with junior goalkeeper Jesus Nunez.
“We lost a few seniors, but as far as comparing it is not fair to do so because we respect both the prior team and our current squad but it will be different this year,” Mercado said. “Our JV was pretty solid last year and the core group of the squad is back and will make things easier and be cohesive early on.”
On the other side of town, Turlock is coming off a struggling year that saw the Bulldogs plagued by injuries and many one-goal losses.
The 2013 team lost two of its final three contests, losing out on the postseason. But head coach Doug Sperry feels this season will be different—kind of like 2012.
“Last year's team was probably one of the most talented teams I have had but we lost key guys after injuries and couldn’t get it together and stay healthy,” said Sperry. “As always, it came down to a point here and there and we couldn’t make playoffs.”
This year the team will rely heavily on some new playmakers in Bryan Tzul and Marcus DeCouto, who started as a freshmen last year to make up a solid but senior heavy team once again.
The Bulldogs will also look to move up possibly one or two freshmen on to the varsity squad, but it is too early to tell Sperry said.
“It’s going to be a good group of guys and I am expecting them to work hard even though it’s too early to say,” Sperry said. “I just hope to get on track and have younger guys step up for us and with the long time players.
“Our league is so competitive, even when we won league in 2012, it came down to the last point,” Sperry said. “We're heading into the right direction again.”
First games for Turlock and Pitman will be at the Pitman Tournament on Aug. 29.