In what could have been an emotional day for the Turlock High girls soccer team, the Bulldogs were all business.
Thurlock defeated Golden Valley 3-1 in a Central California Conference game Monday. It was its first game without head coach Dennis Bishop, who resigned Friday due to health concerns, according to interim heach coach Dennis Sparry.
His left arm and shoulder cradled in a sling most of the season, Bishop had led Turlock to the last four Central California Conference championships. He will miss the rest of the season, Sparry said, including the playoffs should Turlock clinch a berth.
Turlock (14-0-1) forged on Monday, remaining unbeaten in 15 games this season, thanks in part to its persistence.
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Alisa Dahl and Kayla Avila each scored on back-post headers as Turlock improved to 7-0-1 in conference. Meanwhile, Golden Valley slipped to 10-7-2 and 2-5 in the CCC.
Sophomore Macie Ireland's goal in the 28th minute set the tone.
The reserve forward broke open a scoreless game when she one-timed a rebound into an open net. Bruns (five saves) stopped the initial shot, but couldn't control it.
"The girls saw it, too," Sparry said of Golden Valley's struggle to corral saves. "We didn't take advantage of it at first, but we knew it would be there."
The strike served as a redeeming moment for Ireland, who botched a wide-open scoring opportunity just minutes earlier.
Standing all alone at the penalty kick marker, the sophomore pulled her shot wide of the goal, wasting a nifty pass by Dahl.
Ireland tightened up her shot after that.
"That first goal was a mistake," Golden Valley coach Lee Shaw said. "We should have collected that save without much difficulty.
"We played so well up 'til that point. We didn't put our heads down, but it definitely helped the other team."
Golden Valley struggled to match Turlock's buildup in the midfield, but created several chances with its long balls and through passes.
Vanesa Vega scored her 22nd goal of the season in the 75th minute on a breakaway, beating Turlock goalie Andrea Rosas (six saves) with a laser to the left post to make it 2-1.
Shaw believes it should have been the equalizer.
And he had a point.
Minutes earlier, during a scrum for a loose ball in the Turlock penalty box, Rosas was whistled for picking up an apparent pass from one of her defenders. The foul would have given GV an indirect kick at the Turlock 6-yard box.
After a brief deliberation, a second official -- from across the field -- overturned the call, keeping Turlock's lead safe.
"All I can say is that I don't feel like we got what we deserved," Shaw said. "We should feel proud of how we played. We had a lot of open chances against a very good soccer team."
Avila's put the game on ice with a header in the 79th minute, granting Sparry a win in his first appearance as girls soccer coach. Sparry joined the team shortly before the game.
"It's not an ideal situation," he said, "but they expect to win no matter what."