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Academica wins first game with goal in final minutes
Academica first game
Academica SC hoists the Milk Can Trophy after defeating FC Davis 2-1 in their first game of the year last Saturday at their Turlock field (Photo contributed).

Semi-professional soccer returned to Turlock last weekend as Academica SC defeated FC Davis by a score of 2-1 in what was the team’s first match in over a year.

Academica’s return to their home field last Saturday night was a fan affair, with about 300 eager fans making their way out to the pitch to watch the team play for the first time since the coronavirus put a premature end to the 2020 season. It was well worth the wait, as Academica secured the exciting victory in the final minutes of the game. 

The team has developed a friendly rivalry with Davis and as the winner of the game, Academica earned the annual contest's Milk Can Trophy, which looks exactly like it sounds. 

Head coach Sergio Sousa said the return of Turlock’s soccer team — and the return of fans — was a long-awaited moment.

“The guys were just excited to be playing a game again,” Sousa said. “For the new guys, that was their first experience. So with that, their expectation from now on is that the fans are going to be here and they care, and that this is the atmosphere they’re going to be playing in.”

Despite dominating possession and having twice as many chances to score as their opponent, Academica had multiple turnovers throughout the game which led to the low score — the result of nervous energy after being away for so long, Sousa believes. 

He had originally anticipated a high-scoring match between the two evenly-matched teams, but a free kick goal by Academica’s Jorge Carmona in the 22nd minute was the only action to be had for much of the game. 

After FC Davis scored a goal in the 77th minute to tie it 1-1, Academica’s Cody Golack, a University of California, Merced alum, kicked what ended up being the game-winning goal with just three minutes to go. 

“He texted me after the game and said, ‘I haven’t felt like that in a while,’” Sousa said. “Having the fans back is exactly what guys like Cody needed. Since then, it’s lit his fire to train hard.”

Being back on the field was a relief in itself, but Sousa said earning the win made the moment all the better for the entire team. 

“With the first win it’s like we’re back, let’s continue this,” Sousa said. “This is what we do — we play, we win. Now we have to continue to do this and train hard. Everyone’s bought in.”

Academica is a competitor in the Golden Gate Conference of the National Premier Soccer League and will next play in Sonoma on June 5. Their next home game is on June 12, when they welcome Napa Valley 1839 FC to their Turlock field, 1343 W. Greenway Ave.