Pitman High hosted rival Turlock High Tuesday afternoon in the second cross-town soccer match of the season. The Bulldogs (7-2-1 CCC) entered the match on a five-game win streak and with a share of first place in the Central California Conference. The Pride (4-4-2 CCC) entered with third-place status in the CCC and the memory of their last meeting with Turlock, a 3-1 loss, fresh in their minds.
Instead of repeating the script of their last showdown, scoring early and often, Turlock and Pitman played a knotted match, trading offense for defense in the face of 22 mph winds. Things changed in the 76th minute, however, with a Meghan Robinson goal that secured a 1-0 win. The loss would have bumped Turlock into second place in league standings, but a Golden Valley High win over Merced High kept the Bulldogs knotted with the Bears atop the CCC.
“The girls performed a lot better this time. We pulled it together, we've been practicing hard, and I'm really proud of how they executed in this game,” Pitman assistant coach Emma Bennett said. “They played together as a team and worked really well with each other.”
“(There was) intensity and energy on the field from both teams. We know every time we come across town and play Pitman, or they come to our house, it's going to be a match that's always challenging,” Turlock head coach Cathi Schali-Lopez said.
But while the Robinson's goal was true, the circumstances preceding it — confusion stemming from an injury stoppage and questions about possession —were not clear cut for Turlock's coaches who immediately disputed the goal and picked up a yellow card in the process.
“Their coaches thought he called offsides, but the ball just went out of bounds,” Bennett said. “He raised his hands more as a stopping (motion) because we had a player down.”
“It was all up to the refs to make that call. I asked them to explain themselves, they were a little confused about the call themselves, they had to consult one another. And that's the way the game ended,” Schali-Lopez said.
Rayana Plancarte led Pitman's attack through both halves and finished with seven of the Pride's nine shots on goal. Though Plancarta very nearly found the net on several occasions, she came closest in the 74th minute only to see her shot stuffed by a Caitlyn Duval sliding block.
Turlock also had several close calls on offense, particularly in the second half, as shots from Carissa Lopez, Sophie Warda and Ashlen Kuntz sailed just high of the crossbar and over the head of Pitman keeper Rebecca Linderman.
Both Duval and Linderman finished with eight saves.
“They communicated well with each other. Obviously it's a rival game, it's a big game for us, so they were out here to win,” Bennett said.
Pitman will again play at home on Thursday with a match against Golden Valley High in what will be a battle for third place in the CCC. As for Turlock, its girls will attempt to bounce back with a road game against Atwater High on Thursday before hosting league leaders Merced High on April 21.
“We have five games left. We need to come together, win as a team and win the next five games,” Schali-Lopez said. “One game at a time is our focus and we'll play from there.”