The Pitman High soccer tournament was supposed to be a launching point for the 2014 season, unfortunately, Mother Nature forced the tourney to get cancelled and sent most of the 36 scheduled teams back home.
“The city shut down the field, so that is what happened because it is natural grass,” Turlock head coach Cathi Schali-Lopez said.
While a setback, the girls of Pitman and Turlock High are as ready as ever for the new season.
Turlock High looks to repeat as champions after splitting the Central California Conference title with Golden Valley last year as they both posted a 9-5-1 league record. The ‘Dogs eventually lost to Granite Bay in the opening round of the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Sectional tournament.
It will not be an easy task for the Lady Bulldogs to repeat considering the toughness of the CCC, but with a handful of defenders back and four goalkeepers on this year’s roster, the defense looks impenetrable.
Cayla Donahue returns after an ACL tear and should anchor the defense as an incoming senior. Along Donahue will be Cal State Monterey Bay signee in Mariya Fefilova and also Fallon Beaber.
“Last year we started off a little rough and suffered a lot of injuries early on,” Schali-Lopez said. “I also have wonderful coaches that coached at the collegiate level; they work on their techniques and foot work.”
Also, Carissa Lopez who suffered an ACL tear including a meniscus injury last season as a sophomore, now returns this year with hopes of a successful junior campaign along with the help of Morgan DeLay up front.
The goalkeepers for the ‘Dogs will consist of a rotation of Vanessa Campos, Ashlen Kuntz, Vanessa Orozco and Caitlyn Duval.
Newcomer Sophie Warda will be the only freshman on this year’s team and is expected to see big minutes early on.
“We have a great defense intact right now. They are a great group of girls, we are building the dynamics,” Schali-Lopez said. “I have been very fortunate to have girls with a lot of soccer skills to build that unity with Turlock soccer and it has been an honor.”
The Pitman Pride enters a new year with a new coach in Cris Castro, who coached the junior varsity girls for the previous four seasons but now will take the varsity helm from Christina Garcia.
“This is my first year coaching varsity girls soccer but I've been coaching for over 14 years,” Castro said.
Pitman was one win away from clinching a playoff berth last season as they finished fourth in the CCC with a 7-5-3 league record.
The Pride lost eight starters from last season and return only three starters, Katie Hanf, Audrey Hanf and Rayana Plancarte. This year it’s a young but talented team as they look to challenge cross-town rivals Turlock in the CCC.
With only five seniors and a handful of juniors along other underclassmen, the Pride will look to compete in possibly one of the most competitive conferences in the area.
Along with the three returners, juniors Ashleigh Phelps will assist on the midfield and Meghan Robinson will take on the forward duties for her squad this year.
Cady Riley, who opted to play softball last season instead of soccer returns as a junior midfield for coach Castro who believes that Riley’s athleticism will contribute highly to one of the younger teams in the CCC.
“Cady [Riley] opted to play soccer this year and she will bring a ton of experience with a ton of talent and that will help us be more competitive. She is a great athlete,” Castro said. “We are looking for her to make a huge contribution and impact on the team.”
Cohesiveness will be also be key, Castro added.
“This year we are going to be competitive and that’s the ultimate goal to finish top three and, hopefully, make the playoffs,” Castro said. “We have a great group of kids, that’s one of the things my assistants have said, that we all agree it’s a really great group of girls that work hard together."
Pitman will open its preseason matchups at 4 p.m. Wednesday, as they will host the Central Catholic Raiders.
The Turlock Bulldogs will scrimmage Central Catholic High at 4 p.m. Monday at Turlock High.