Turlock High hasn’t allowed a goal in its last two matches, the most recent of which was a 3-0 victory over Rio Linda High in the second round of the Division II SJS Playoffs on Thursday. The strength of the Bulldogs’ defense and their opportunistic offensive attack has landed them in a semi-final matchup against Folsom High at home on Wednesday, one step away from a potential section championship.
“Coming to playoffs is a big step and you’re always wondering how the guys are going to handle it, but when these guys get excited it’s usually a good thing,” Turlock’s head coach Doug Sperry said. “Everybody is really excited.”
Turlock’s excitement has been a constant during its post-season campaign with its players brimming with confidence and anticipation on the field and providing support and levity from the bench. It took only five minutes for that excitement to manifest itself in the form of a goal when Desmond Madrigal’s 45 yard free kick bounced off the head of Jonathan Lopez and into the net, making it 1-0 Turlock.
Martin Castoren provided the Bulldogs with more celebratory fodder in the final minutes of the first half when he sent the ball sailing over Rio Linda’s goalie from a couple yards out with a touch shot. The ball landed and bounced just inside the goal post, causing a Knight defender to grab his head in disbelief. When Turlock wasn’t controlling the ball with its offense, its defense was busy thwarting golden scoring opportunities for Rio Linda. On several occasions Bulldog goalie Daniel Saldana made clutch blocks, keeping the ball from touching the net with his fingertips and will.
“We did a good job defensively. We made some first half mistakes but it didn’t cost us,” Sperry said. “As a team we played well together and played hard; a lot of our goals came from that hard work.”
The second half provided less offensive fireworks and more physicality as players from both sides regularly collided and fell to the turf. Turlock received a total of three yellow cards but was ultimately unfazed as it continued its aggressive style of play. The Bulldogs finally struck the death blow in the 34th minute with a goal via a Dylan Castro header.
“We haven’t done a good job of finishing; we had some really good chances that we didn’t capitalize on,” Sperry said. “Finishing will be key for us in the next couple of games.”
Although Turlock has played well in the first two rounds of the post-season, Sperry expects his team to hit their stride on Wednesday when they host the Folsom Bulldogs.
“We always wanted to win league so we’d have home field advantage,” Sperry said. “It’s huge, not having to travel, being able to play at home and being comfortable; it’s a big advantage.”