The biggest matchup of the year in the Central California Athletic League took place on Wednesday afternoon from the Pitman Pride pool when the boys water polo team hosted Turlock High in the first of two league meetings this season.
Turlock once again closed out the first half of league play perfect after they rallied in the fourth to top Pitman in a 12-5 victory.
“I was confident in our guys and their ability to come out and get the win, but just like every game you don’t want to be overconfident,” said Turlock head coach Colin Wenstrand.
“We went in entirely trying to perform the best we could, huge game in league, especially facing Turlock,” said Pitman head coach Justin Jones. “I have had my early years involved in that game and Turlock is just an insurmountable mountain we need to try and climb, and I am very proud of my boys for today’s game.”
The build up to the game was as much as any crosstown rivalry, only these two teams share many similarities. Many members of the Turlock and Pitman squads compete against each other on club water polo teams. Wenstrand was the head coach at Pitman in 2017, but he’s now guiding the Bulldog team at his alma mater.
Wednesday’s rivalry matchup was the Bulldogs’ 15th straight CCAL victory.
They got it, but it didn’t come easy.
Pitman went up 2-0 in the opening four minutes after Bryce Kelly and Rylan Loforti each nailed a goal.
Turlock responded by drilling three straight goals to take a 3-2 lead by the end of the first quarter after Jackson Thomas made two of his game-high five goals in an 80-second span.
Turlock outscored Pitman in the second quarter, 3-1, and led 6-3 at the half.
“We know these guys from the club program, so we know each other’s tendencies, which can be a double-edged sword,” said Wenstrand. “There is so much that comes into play with this game, but we finished strong which I am happy about. I only had one sub all game, so those guys went 28 minutes, minus the guy that got the major, so they are pretty fit. In a game like this you want to trust your starters and they were doing fine.”
The Pride looked to respond back almost immediately and matched the ‘Dogs 2-2 in the third, but trailed 8-5 heading into the final seven minutes of play.
Turlock outscored Pitman 4-0 in the fourth to win the game, 12-5.
The Pride fall to 3-2 in league play and 9-7 overall.
“We went in knowing we would work on every single little thing, and we have been struggling with the season, but I think we could have executed our fundamentals a little better. We fell off early on and then came back in the third,” said Jones. “Passing was off and some ball placement on offense as well, things we are struggling with.”
Turlock improves to 15-3 overall and 5-0 in the CCAL.
“Our team objective on defense is if we can hold our opponents to four goals or fewer,” said Wenstrand. “If we do that, then we stand a great chance at winning in that game, and a team like this to hold them to five, great job by the defense. We just have to limit the turnovers, that is what’s killing us every time.”
The next game for Pitman will be at home against Modesto High at 3 p.m. Monday.
Turlock’s next league game will be on the road against Gregori High at 3 p.m. Monday.
“From here on out it is process, preparation, game planning, nutrition, recovery, it is all these things and if we do all these things that are part of the process, then it will all work itself out,” Wenstrand added.