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Merced beaten late by Turlock

The Merced girls soccer team has endured its share of last-minute heartache this season.

A number of victories have gotten away from Brooke Wilson's squad in the waning seconds thanks to defensive breakdowns.

Golden Valley's last-second draw at the end of March still stings.

But no memory of the season may be looked at with more bitterness than Wednesday's 79th minute goal by Turlock's Sara Latham.

The junior's second goal of the game gave Turlock a 2-1 victory and robbed Merced of a well-deserved draw.

"When we look back on this game, we aren't going to feel badly about how we played," Merced goalkeeper Stephanie Isenberg said. "When you work that hard and play that well and don't get the win or at least a tie, it just sucks."

Isenberg did everything in her power to keep Merced level.

After a brilliant afternoon of defense, Merced's back line was beaten with a through ball to Turlock's Jasmine Nickelberry.

Nickelberry took a poor first touch on the ball, allowing sweeper Alexa Lawler to recover on the play.

Lawler got in between Nickelberry and the ball, and just when danger appeared to be averted, both girls took a tumble.

The ball continued rolling towards the Merced net with Latham charging hard.

Isenberg came out to close down the angle on Latham's breakaway and made the initial save.

Unfortunately for Merced (3-2-4 CCC, 12-2-4), the rebound caromed back to Latham, who fired the winner into the empty net.

"I don't usually blame the refs, but we played too well to have the game end like that," Wilson said. "The girl was offside on the first pass and then she took out Alexa.

"That's two blatantly missed calls on one play and the difference in the game."

Latham put Turlock (8-1, 18-3-2) up in the 23rd minute, redirecting a cross from Lauren Smith.

Despite controlling the run of play in the game, Merced struggled to respond.

Merced only got three shots on goal in the game, with the most unlikely one becoming the equalizer in the 63rd minute.

With nothing else working, Merced striker Tina Benson let fly a 40-yard half volley that caught Turlock's Macie Ireland off her line.

"I saw she'd been playing up, so I went for it," Benson said. "We showed today that we have enough talent to be a playoff team.

"Now we just have to get it done."