Approximately 7.7 miles separate Turlock and Hilmar High, but the similarities between the schools’ girls soccer teams are eerie.
Both teams are coming off league titles and they both return nearly the same number of starters, well over half. They also both have dedicated coaches with similar styles of play.
What happened when both of these strong programs met on Friday night at Joe Debely Stadium was a showcase of great soccer that also saw both the 2016-17 Journal Co-Players of the year back in Daisy Martinez of Turlock and Hilmar’s Emily Vieira.
Each were vital in Friday’s 1-1 draw that saw a stalemate for most of the game, after two early goals in the opening nine minutes.
“The two quick goals, I did not expect that. I think a lot of girls got surprised and Hilmar came out to play tonight and you saw it in the first five minutes, they scored the goal,” said Turlock head coach Temo Arteaga. “They capitalized and that is what happens when you don’t come out ready to play.”
“The girls responded early in the game,” said Hilmar head coach Doug Delay. “They came in ready to play this game, they always do. They get up and get excited for Turlock. We started quick and then we got that early goal and it was really a great set play that we worked on and we had a great shot and then from there we fell in our heels just a bit.”
Turlock controlled the tempo for the remainder of the first half, pressuring Hilmar and maintaining possession on their half of the field.
JuliAnn Machado of Hilmar put her team on the board with the first goal of the game at the five-minute mark off a short corner.
Turlock’s Alicia Hill then evened the score at 1-1 just four minutes in at the ninth minute.
“The speed of play was very quick, which is one of the reasons we like to play Turlock and they are a very good team, very good possession team,” said Delay. “So we fell back on our heels just a little bit, not like we let down or anything, it’s just Turlock got momentum and after they tied it, they pressed us the entire first half.”
Any attempt of a counter by Hilmar was quickly met with an aggressive steal. Martinez was in the mix of majority of these steals.
When Vieira and Martinez finally had the chance to go one-on-one, they exchanged chances and got the better end of one another.
“Took longer today to get things going, but at the end of the day we were strong,” said Arteaga. “Second half we had some chances but couldn’t finish. I am happy with the team. Hilmar stayed very organized, we only broke through them once and it got us a tie, I am happy with that.”
Hilmar’s back-line and goalkeeper Mikayla Schmidt, who was arguably the player of the game, were consistent for the final 71 minutes of the game.
Schmidt came up with a clutch save on a penalty kick attempt by Turlock’s Kayli Wilson at the 68th minute, diving to her right side and keeping the game even at 1-1.
“Mikayla was awesome. She is always a great player for us, but tonight she kept us in the match to be honest,” said Delay. “Obviously saving the PK, but a couple of great saves throughout the second half and even in the first half and she just kept our momentum going.”
The two teams continued to press as best they could in the final 12 minutes, but the near mirror image of one another made it extremely difficult to break the consistent defense played by both sides.
Turlock ends pre-league play with an overall posting of 3-1-4.
Hilmar goes to 8-1-4 with a pair of games remaining until league play begins.
“There are some real positives but then there are some things we need to work on,” Arteaga added. “I like that we stayed more focused on the offensive part of it, which allowed more opportunities but there are things we need to tweak on defense still, connect more to break the defenders and that is what we will focus heading into league.”
Turlock will open up league play in the Central California Conference against El Capitan at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 3.
Hilmar has two pre-league games left and will next host Golden Valley at 3 p.m. Thursday.