The Turlock High varsity girls soccer team’s season came to an end Friday night in a hard-fought battle against Tracy High, as it was the visiting Bulldogs who came out on top 2-0 in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my girls. We had a great run this season and fought through a lot,” Turlock head coach Nicole Lonergan said, noting a winter full of COVID and several season-ending injuries for key players. “As a whole, the girls really rallied together to overcome all of the situations that were thrown at them and they deserved to make it this far.”
Turlock came into the playoff tournament as the No. 7 seed after finishing third in Central California Athletic League play with a 7-3 record. Despite boasting the CCAL’s top scorer in junior Jenna Dean and two top 10 shooters, seniors Kylee Redman and Gracen Daubenberger, the No. 10 seed Tracy Bulldogs’ defense proved to be too much for Turlock and held them to a shutout on Friday.
During preseason play in early December, Turlock defeated Tracy 3-0.
“We knew that we were both different teams going into playoffs then we were at the beginning of the season,” Lonergan said. “...I think we absolutely dominated the second half of this game, but the outcome doesn’t necessarily reflect that. At the end of the day, we were as prepared as we were going to be and they stepped up to the challenge.”
After two goals by Tracy in the 19th and 25th minutes of the first half — and several Turlock shots which were near goals — Lonergan made some tweaks to the lineup in the second half which saw the girls put in positions they hadn’t practiced. Redman, for example, started the game as outside forward, moved to center back and ended the game at outside back. It worked out in Turlock’s favor, as Tracy didn’t score again.
“Our girls were completely resilient. They stepped up and understood the game and what was being asked of them,” Lonergan said. “I think it speaks to their dedication, their commitment and the hard work and effort they’ve put into this season.”
With the Turlock Bulldogs graduating 13 seniors after this season, next year’s team will look a bit different. But, a solid group of returning sophomores and juniors, like Dean, who will take over as leaders — and an incoming group of talented junior varsity players who captured a CCAL title of their own this season.
There were plenty of emotions following Friday’s loss, as senior standouts like Redman, Daubenberger, Emma Kosakiewicz, Macy Max and more cherished their final moments on the field.
“This group of seniors has played together, many of them, since they were 11, and then they’ve been a team their freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year. That’s something really special that we’ll be losing,” Lonergan said. “But the players who got to play with those girls and learn from them are going to be good role models going forward.”