Since claiming the Central California Conference title in 2012, Turlock High’s boys’ soccer team has posted consecutive fifth-place seasons, the most recent of which came by way of a 2-10-3 record.
With no championships and no playoff berths, the Bulldogs of the past two years have learned their lessons on the pitch the hard way. Now, with many of those players entering this season as experienced upperclassmen, Turlock is preparing for what it hopes is a turnaround performance that not only ends with a league title but a playoff appearance as well.
“Last year’s team, we lost a lot of close games late. We gave up late goals and made mistakes over and over again. It doesn’t really reflect the kind of year we had, as far as the record goes,” head coach Doug Sperry said. “It was probably the youngest team I’ve ever had in 10 years. They’re a very talented group now.”
Still in the midst of tryouts, Turlock’s roster is not yet cemented and so its future playmakers are shrouded in uncertainty. There are four players who are expected to be keystones for the team, however, and who bring with them years of varsity experience. Marcus DeCouto and James Filling, juniors who have played at the varsity level since freshman and sophomore year, respectively, will be joined by seniors Alex Barajas and Raul Castro and will fill important defensive roles. Castro, the goalie, has also played varsity since his sophomore year.
“We’ve got a core group,” Sperry said. “Hopefully the younger guys have learned and matured and know how to finish a game, and we won’t make those mistakes again this year.”
By cutting down on mistakes and leaning on its talent and experience, Turlock plans on moving past CCC contenders Atwater and Pitman High and into the top tier of league rankings. The Bulldogs will get their first taste of outside completion against Modesto at home on Aug. 24, the first step in a season’s long quest to return to championship form.
“It’s always tough because our league is solid all the way around,” Sperry said.