The Turlock High varsity boys soccer team is off to a successful start in pre-league this season.
The team’s penultimate non-conference game came at home on Thursday night when they hosted Vallejo High in a frigid night that saw the temperatures drop to 36 degrees at the lowest point in the game.
Despite the bleak weather, Turlock had many opportunities to score, but they weren’t able to hit the net. The Bulldogs hit the post on multiple occasions — and missed a wide-open look just a couple feet away from the opposing goalie. The game ended with a stalemate at 0-0.
“It’s never easy to play when it’s this cold, it takes guys longer to get going, it’s tough, but it is something we have to deal with and we are getting used to it I think,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry. “Four to five off the post, a couple of easy balls right in front of the net that somehow missed.”
Turlock managed to edge out Vallejo in possession time throughout the game, most notably in the first half.
The Bulldogs also got off multiple shots in the opening half.
“We controlled possession and pace, I thought, for most of the game and first half. If one of those close shots goes in, it probably would have changed things a lot, but we didn’t finish,” said Sperry.
Turlock’s Samuel Gaona had back-to-back shots in a two-minute frame in the closing minutes of the first half.
With 13 minutes remaining till halftime, Gaona took a free kick shot from about 26 yards out on the right corner and hit the near post, but the ball deflected off.
As stoppage time neared, both sides saw multiple players go down, especially Turlock which had four go down and two subbed out.
The intensity carried into the second half.
“We knew they would be a tough team. After sitting in traffic for three hours, with a lot of energy and came out and took it right to us,” said Sperry. “We knew they would be a good team and they were, we just didn’t get it done.”
At the 47th minute, Alex Ayala of Turlock nearly put in another goal when he drilled a right footed volley to the back of the net, but the opposing goalkeeper jumped and pushed the ball out of play, saving what would have been a goal.
Turlock’s Jesus Estrada then nearly put his team on the board at the 54-minute mark when he saw an open opportunity on a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but his shot clanked off the top post.
“We made it tough on ourselves when it shouldn’t have been, but overall I thought we played well,” said Sperry.
Estrada helped create another chance just two minutes later as he found an open Jairo Vega inside the goalie’s box, just feet away.
Once the cross was gently placed on the feet of Vega, he followed with a hard shot that forced the ball to sail wide away and out of play.
Turlock goalkeeper Icsef Huitron made some critical saves in the final six minutes to secure the draw.
“We have played really well, we have continued to get better,” Sperry added. “We had a great tournament last weekend, played a lot of good teams and won a lot of games. We still have a lot of things to work on and some things to figure out, but all in all I am really happy with how the guys are playing. Once we get everyone back, I think we are going to be tough to beat.”
Turlock is now 9-3-2 for the year, with one pre-league game remaining on the schedule.
The Bulldogs will close out pre-league with a home game against Orestimba at 3 p.m. Thursday.