Turlock soccer rolls on in CCC

TURLOCK -- It would take more than a late-season coaching change to throw Turlock High's girls soccer team off its stride, Doug Sperry knew that.

"This is a group that has had its mind set to winning the (Central California Conference) title and making a run at section," said Sperry, who became head coach two weeks ago when Dennis Bishop stepped down due to health issues. "I just showed up at the game two weeks ago, it was that sudden."

The Bulldogs fulfilled their first goal Monday, striking twice in the second half for a 2-0 victory over crosstown rival Pitman -- giving Turlock its fifth consecutive conference championship.

Amanda Cervantes played a role in both goals, the first coming at the 51st minute. She played the ball into the middle, where Sara Latham finished it.

Later in the half, Pitman was whistled for pushing and Turlock received a free kick just beyond the 18-yard mark: Cervantes blasted it past the goalie and into the top left corner for the 2-0 lead.

Turlock (17-0-2, 10-0-2) is idle until it hosts a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff opener May 14. The Bulldogs will face the runner-up from the Tri-City Athletic League. Pitman (13-4-2, 7-2-2) has a chance to get the No. 2 seed Wednesday when it visits Merced (7-0-4). Merced and Pitman played to a scoreless draw last month.

If Pitman wins, it goes on. If Merced wins or ties, it will be the team that visits the San Joaquin Athletic Association champion in the first round.

While Latham and Cervantes handled the scoring, Sperry praised the play of defender Cassidy Costa. He also noted a difference between the boys team he coaches in the fall and this girls' team.

"The style of the girls' game is moving the ball around, being very unselfish and focusing more on passing than dribbling," Sperry said. "I'm impressed by how well they play together, with or without the ball at their feet."

Winning a fifth consecutive title by beating Pitman provided a little more juice.

"When Turlock plays Pitman, it's always going to be a different game," Sperry said. "No one wants to go home after losing that one. The great part is that these are like home games for both teams because of the large crowds."