The change from fall to winter season is here for Turlock and Pitman varsity boys soccer as they both head into the new year as contenders in the Central California Conference.
Pitman is coming off a second place finish in the CCC just a year ago with a 9-4-2 record along with a semifinal run in the Division II Sac-Joaquin Section tournament, while Turlock finished in fifth place with a record of 4-9-2.
“It was a good year and we were fortunate to have a good team, good players and good coaching,” said Pitman head coach Oscar Mercado about last season’s success. “I think we are young in age but some of these guys have a lot of soccer experience so we will see... expectations are always high.”
The Pride have made the playoffs the last three consecutive seasons. Pitman was second in the CCC last season, finished with an overall record of 17-7-4 and a state ranking of 16 according to maxpreps.
“We are young but we have some seniors on the team as well. It'll be interesting to see how the dynamic works for the season; we will see if we are ready,” said Mercado about his team's potential for the upcoming season.
Despite losing nearly half of his starters from a season ago, Mercado knows that the talent is there but he will have to rely on a few returners to lead the team if they hope to stand a chance.
Forward Jonathan Galdamez is back for another year as the scoring threat will be playing alongside returners Anthony Zuno and Isrrael “Izzy” Lopez.
“We did lose a good chunk of our team but also got the spinal cord in every lineup which should be strong and should give great leadership as well,” said Mercado. “We just want to play good soccer, but the main objective is to compete, but like every year, in a strong CCC.”
Turlock hasn't had a winning record in the CCC since the 2012 fall season when they went 7-4-4.
Turlock has the enviable position, however, of being loaded with talent at nearly every position, according to Sperry.
“We have a lot of guys who can play various positions, so it will take us a while to figure out where they will play. We're experimenting and trying things, which is exciting,” said Sperry. “We've got some ways to go but the potential is there. Top to bottom we are stacked, we are all pretty excited.”
The Bulldogs are itching to hit the pitch and prove that they can and will compete for a league title and more. Maybe even make a run like the 2012 team did.
That year, the Bulldogs also managed to achieve an overall record of 16-6-5 as they marched into the Division II Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game, eventually losing 6-5 in penalty kicks to Bella Vista.
Since the 2012 Section title run, the Turlock boys squad has finished in fifth place over the last three seasons and they're ready to turn the bad luck around.
“Not trying to be too excited but there is definitely a different vibe than we have had out here in 11 years,” said Sperry. “When you see other sports doing so well, the other athletes see that and it's great all around because it’s motivating.”
Look for captain and senior Marcus DeCouto to lead the 'Dogs into the upcoming season, as he has started every game since his freshman year.
“Marcus is back, finally a senior and just a great guy and leader,” said Sperry of his leader.
DeCouto is such a highly regarded prospect that he has gained interest from various Division I universities from around the country, but he has his sights set on staying nearby and attending either St. Mary's in Moraga or University of Pacific.
“He deserves it, he is a great kid, grades are awesome, just a great guy,” Sperry added.
The Turlock Bulldogs' first game will be on the road against Patterson at 4 p.m. Dec. 6.