A weary start against Central California Conference foe, Merced High? No problem.
That was the way the Pitman (6-2-1) Pride's boys' varsity soccer team handled Thursday's road contest when they met the Merced (3-4-2) Bears for an opportunity to claim a comfortable seat in second place, just behind first place Atwater in the CCC.
What Pitman got was a revved up Merced team that came out firing away in the opening minutes of the contest, scoring the first goal in the opening seven minutes.
Pitman eventually held Merced from scoring again for the remainder of the game as they took control of the pitch and notched two unanswered goals in the second half to claim the 2-1 victory.
“The team showed a lot of grit. They faced the adverse result on that goal that they did not earn, it was our mistake but they showed grit and they redeemed themselves,” said Pitman assistant head coach Cesar Mercado. “The entire group — very proud of all of them.”
“Everyone played it well in the second half and we knew we had to come out and play as a team,” said Pitman captain Miguel Galdamez. “We knew that if we really focus on certain things, then we could get the job done and we did and all the leaders picked it up.”
The win marks Pitman's third straight, including a record of 5-1-1 over the last seven games.
Pitman's last loss was to Merced on Sept. 24 after a one-goal loss at home to the Bears.
“It’s a boost for us since we are on a winning streak heading into Atwater, which is an even better team, but winning here in Merced is really hard when compared to everywhere else,” said Galdamez.
Once Merced's Alfred Flores clinched the first goal of the game after a steal, Pitman buckled down on the defensive end and for the remaining 33 minutes of the first half Pitman was pressing against Merced's defense along with the help of the defense and goalkeeper Jesus Nuñez.
Merced found it tough to penetrate the Pitman defense after their first score, primarily because the back line was playing tough and not allowing any open looks from Merced, with the exception of a few shots from deep, but neither were on goal.
The first half ended with a one goal lead for Merced, however, Pitman knew what needed to be done and they executed in the second half.
Jonathan Galdamez was pressing in the second half until finally he found a 1-on-1 chance against goalkeeper Marcos Castellanos just eight minutes into the second half, but his shot was blocked.
The ball then ricochet back to Galdamez and eventually he slid a pass over to sophomore Ricardo Casillas, who then found the far post from inside the goalie's box.
With a 1-1 score, Pitman knew it was a brand new ball game and after Merced was playing catch up to Pitman for most of the second half, eventually Galdamez found his way inside the 18-yard box and was fouled by Merced's Emmanuel Vega.
Nuñez took the penalty shot at the 72 minute mark and Pitman's 2-1 lead was secured after Merced was eventually gassed out near the end.
“Historically, this field, Merced, has been really tough on us, we don't win often, it’s just a tough pitch... it’s tough,” said Mercado. “Regardless if were down in the game we have the mental capacity to change things up in the second half and we did.”
“We played well,” Galdamez added. “Especially in the second half when coach Sergio spoke to us about picking it up and playing with pride since that is our mascot and that helped us pick it up because nobody wants to lose, especially to Merced.”
Pitman's next game will be at Turlock High at 7 p.m. Tuesday.