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Turlock shuts out Modesto to secure season sweep
Alex Mejia notches hat-trick in victory
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Turlock High’s Alex Mejia scored a hat-trick in Friday’s 4-0 shutout win over Modesto High from Joe Debely Stadium (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

The battle for first place in the Central California Athletic League is heating up for Turlock High boys soccer with just two games remaining. On Friday, the Bulldogs showed what they can do against Modesto High and Alex Mejia came out firing away as he notched a hat-trick in a 4-0 shutout win.

“We have a lot of talented guys on this team and if they catch fire, any one of them, they can do it. We don’t have to rely on one guy,” said Turlock head coach Doug Sperry. “But we did depend on certain guys to score during the year, so it is good that other guys are stepping up and scoring, finding the back of the net.”

Following the win on Friday, Turlock remains unbeaten in league play as they are now tied with Pitman at 7-0-1. The only draw came when both teams squared off on Jan. 22 and played a 2-2 game.

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Luke Redman of Turlock High gets ready to stop a pass during the first half of Friday’s 4-0 shutout win over Modesto High (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

The game on Friday was a big one, however, since Turlock needed a win to stay in contention with Pitman for the title.

The Bulldogs handled the Panthers with ease, much like their first meeting, but it took a little time to build that large lead.

Alex Mejia scored the first of three goals just five minutes into the game as his team took a 1-0 lead early on.

Modesto continued to press and play on the attacking third for majority of the first half, but Turlock managed to neutralize any offensive attacks.

If there was any attempt, the back-line was able to fend off or the goalkeeper was able to direct the ball away from the back of the net.

Modesto matched Turlock in possession for most of the first 40 minutes and the halftime score read, 1-0, after Modesto had a shot on goal in the final seconds of the first half.

“We were a little disappointed with how we came out early on in the first half, unfortunately,” said Sperry. “We have had the flu bug, whatever it is, kind of ripping through our team for the last two weeks, so three to four guys got it then it goes to the next pair of guys and then I just got it, so it has been tough the last couple of weeks with guys filling in different spots. All in all, they have done a great job filling in when guys have gone down or been sick.”

Ethan Gardner of Turlock struck on a shot on a goal after a one on one with the final defender, but the shot was saved with ease.

Mejia took just two minutes to strike his second goal of the game at the 42nd minute, and Turlock went up 2-0.

Turlock’s Omar Rodriguez found the back of the net at the 49th minute after ripping a beautiful shot to the upper right corner.

Mejia completed his hat-trick at the 52nd minute to make it 4-0 after a sweet finesse shot to the upper left corner that was nearly perfect.

In the final 17 minutes, Turlock dominated possession and made it difficult for Modesto to attempt any shots on target. Modesto got one final shot on goal with two minutes left in the game, but the shot was saved.

Turlock has beaten Modesto twice this year and outscored them, 9-1.

“We saw some of that tonight, but we came out in the second half with a lot more energy and started finishing and that was the story of the game,” said Sperry. “We had some early losses in the preseason where we didn’t put it away, and this hasn’t been a perfect season like it was last year, so hopefully some of those losses and tough times will help us moving forward.”

Turlock’s penultimate game of the regular season will be on the road at Downey High, at 5 p.m. Monday.