The Merced attack isn't quite where coach Brooke Wilson would like it to be.
But the Bears' girls soccer team seems to be getting a little closer each time on the pitch.
Atwater dominated at times on Monday afternoon, but when Merced put things together, there was no slowing it down.
Freshman midfielder Jetta Saeteurn had a goal and an assist to help make the Bears' 0-2 start to Central California Conference play a distant memory with a 3-1 victory.
"It was better, particularly the second half of the second half, but we're still coming out a step slow at times," Wilson said. "When we step up and win the ball and fight for every inch of space, we're a very different team."
Merced (6-4-2, 2-2 CCC) certainly wasn't the aggressor early.
The pace of Atwater's Alyssa Ruiz put the Bear defense on its heels and the Falcons (7-4-4, 1-2-1 CCC) had Merced pinned in its own half for the opening 10 minutes.
All that began to change when the Bears got their wings involved. Spreading the field opened things up and Merced took advantage in the 13th minute.
Diana Guzman lofted a cross into the Atwater 18-yard box from the left wing that struck striker Cassie Albright.
After a brief scramble, the ball fell to the feet of Saeteurn. She deftly touched the ball to her right to improve her angle and fired into the far post for a 1-0 lead.
The game opened up after that, with both teams exchanging good chances.
The Falcons thought they'd tied it up in the 22nd minute when Ruiz got half a step on her mark and fired off the outside of the post.
It was the start of a rough afternoon in Merced for Ruiz, who had a gash opened up on her right forearm, had her toe stepped on during a 50-50 ball and struck the woodwork twice.
Her one bit of good fortune came in the 40th minute when Merced goalkeeper Jessika McClesky (four saves) couldn't handle Brianna Perez's long cross on a free kick.
Ruiz half-volleyed the ball into the net to tie the game 1-1 just seconds before the half.
"That goal was tough," Saeteurn said. "They'd been pressing all game and we'd managed to repel them, but it hurt giving up the momentum right before the half.
"Fortunately we were able to answer."
Merced's second goal came against the run of play as the Falcons took the field after intermission energized by their late equalizer.
The danger again came from the Merced wing.
Hannah Esquivel won the ball near midfield and pushed up the right wing before threading a pass to Nicole Salm.
The sophomore took a touch, then beat Valeria Perez (five saves) with a shot to the far post.
Albright iced the game with a tack-on goal in the 80th minute.
"I felt like we were lethargic defensively all game," Atwater coach Steve Menezes said. "We had our chances, but we couldn't finish.
"When you don't take advantage of chances and then make mistakes defensively, this is the result."
Pitman 2, GV 0
TURLOCK -- Rayana Plancarte scored to help the Pride hand GV its first CCC loss.
Turlock 3, BC 0
ATWATER -- The defending CCC champs picked up their first win, routing the Thunder on the road.