MERCED — On Wednesday afternoon, the Pitman High girls soccer players had the extraordinary pressure of needing to win against a Merced High team that featured a very stingy goalkeeper. And one of the things the Pride had in their heads was this: Win or go home.
That's because a tie wouldn't be enough for the Pride to extend their season.
It was a back-and-forth match all afternoon, with the Pitman forwards firing plenty of deadly shots at the goal, but the Pride came away with a result that would've been nice on any other day. It was a 0-0 draw, meaning the Bears earned their second consecutive playoff berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs and the Pitman players took a long ride back to Turlock, missing out on the postseason for the second straight season.
Were the Pride athletes disappointed?
“A little bit,” senior midfielder Mayra Flores said. “It's not the playoffs. I think we deserved to make the playoffs this year. We wanted it, but we didn't get it.”
It was a frustrating end to another good season by the Pride, who finished 7-2-3 in the CCC.
The Bears (7-0-5 CCC) only needed a tie on Wednesday, because they were ahead in points before hosting the game. They had another solid day from goalkeeper Stephanie Isenberg, who swatted away plenty of Pitman's attempts, a number of them coming from forward Hannah Verschelden.
Last season, the Pride were in a do-or-die situation in the season finale but Merced also spoiled their postseason aspirations.
This time, they needed a win.
Earlier on, Marissa Marable had a clean look at the goal but Isenberg made the first of many saves. Verschelden worked all afternoon to put in a goal, though most of the time she was surrounded by Merced defenders. She produced a number of attempts, some of them up close and others were launched from several yards away.
Merced spent most of the game pushing back its defense, focusing on not letting Pitman score.
The Pride finished third in the league standings, with their two losses coming against Turlock High, which captured the conference title for the fifth consecutive season and secured the No. 1 seed in the CCC.
“We had to give it all we had,” defender Karina Maldonado said. “We didn't want to give up any balls. We wanted to play hard and minimize our mistakes.”
The Pride were also effective on defense, considering they didn't allow a goal and had a solid day from senior goalkeeper Selynna Hermosillo-Vega, who had her share of impressive saves.
But Pitman has a lot to look forward to next season, with a good chunk of the starters returning.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.