FOLSOM — Blame it on Mickey Mouse.
Days before the Turlock High girls soccer team stepped on the field of Folsom High's Prairie City Stadium to compete in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal game against Davis Sr. High on Thursday night, the seniors faced a tough decision.
Disneyland or a possible Section title, events that happened on the same day.
Ultimately, most of them — including some starters — chose the former over playing in what would be their final high school game. The senior trip, however, was something they paid for and committed to months ago, before the Bulldogs embarked on their postseason journey.
That group was sorely missed, however.
Turlock lost 2-0 in a game that had many of the Bulldogs playing out of position on artificial grass, while trying to fight off an offensive-minded Davis Sr. team. The loss killed Turlock's hopes of returning to the Section title game for the second time in three seasons, a fact that left many of the players teary-eyed after the final whistle blew.
Also, the Bulldogs suffered their only loss of the season.
“It sucks to finish like this, because every single one of us out there wanted it,” junior midfielder/forward Alissa Dahl said afterward, her eyes watery.
The Bulldogs (19-1-2 overall) spent much of the game trying to fend off the Blue Devils, who displayed a bevy of offensive weapons. One of them, forward Anna Gilbertson, stumbled upon a loose ball in the 12th minute and beat a couple of Turlock defenders to score the game's first goal.
“We didn't get off to a great start,” Turlock interim coach Doug Sperry said, “which has kind of been our problem all year. (We) didn't really adjust to the turf. I thought in the second half, the girls came out and played with a lot of heart. Being down one goal, I thought they responded real well. We were packing it constantly at the end there.
“Things just didn't work out for us.”
It wasn't until about midway through the first half that Turlock got a good-looking shot, as sophomore forward Maecie Ireland sailed an attempt high above the net. Things began to pick up for the Bulldogs in the second half, when Dahl morphed into a forward to add more speed and increase the team's scoring chances.
But forwards such as Dahl, Ireland and Sara Latham — one of two seniors in Thursday's starting lineup, the other being defender Teresa Soltero — weren't enough in the end. The Bulldogs allowed Sarah Sadler to gather up a rebound shot in the 78th minute for a 2-0 lead.
Turlock had its moments, though.
Besides producing sharper play in the second half, the Bulldogs watched goalkeeper Andrea Rosas provide a highlight reel with the freshman extending her body out a number of times on her way to 14 saves.
“I thought Andrea played a-maz-ing,” Sperry said, breaking up the last word into three sections.
But in the end, it was a tough loss to accept for the Turlock players. They experienced an up-and-down season from winning their fifth consecutive Central California Conference championship to losing their longtime coach, Dennis Bishop, late in the regular season due to health reasons (though the resigned coach was on the sidelines for the third straight postseason game on Thursday night, barking out orders as if he had never left the team).
And then came the option of taking that bus ride to Anaheim. Sperry didn’t go into details about situation, only saying that the decision to go to Disneyland was up to the seniors to make.
But Dahl didn't deny how tough it was to play without her teammates.
“Overall, as a team, we went through several hardships,” she said, “like losing our coach and everything that has happened to us. I think it's great to make it all the way to semifinals. We played great for missing six, seven of our players … At the beginning of the game, missing so many players, we knew it could go either way. So we had to adjust with everything that had happened and play the best we could.”
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