It’s still early, but the Hollister High girls soccer team has the early advantage as it pursues a Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division championship.
The Haybalers, who entered the week in first place by virtue of winning their first three games, also have had two matches postponed due to the recent storms. Making up those contests with Alvarez and Salinas will make the rest of the schedule a bit hectic, but just about every team in the league is in the same situation.
Hollister coach Becky Bonner said she’s taken delight in seeing the players practice hard, play cohesively during matches and support each other emotionally. The combination could be a prelude to the Balers winning the league championship, something they haven’t done in nine years.
They came close four years ago, totaling 25 points to Christopher’s 27. So, there is a lot to like about this year’s group.
“It’s been really great to see they’re enjoying their time together and wanting to put in the time in practice and get in extra reps to get better,” Bonner said. “And as they’re doing it, they’ve been supportive of each other.”
Freshman sensation Zamaya Rivera has a team-high 10 goals, super sophomore Sydney Stacy has six and standout senior McKenzie Heckman four. Stacy plays forward, Rivera plays both up top and in the midfield and Heckman is also a midfielder.
Stacy and Heckman blend physical play and skill, and Rivera has dazzled with her ball skills and ability to make runs and put shots on goal in tight spaces. Rivera also plays physical and wins 50-50 balls. Saavedra Allen has also been “doing a great job,” Bonner said, though she emphasized players at every position have been making valuable contributions.
“All the girls have been doing a really good job of stepping up,” Bonner said. “Everyone has been playing and they’re contributing, whether they’re playing 80 minutes or they’re out there for 10 minutes. It’s been really great to see they’re always ready to go at the start. And for the girls who come in, they’re asking questions and really receptive to coaching. They have a great time in practice and a good time in the games.”
In a recent practice, Bonner said players were eager and going strong all the way to the finish. It’s that type of attitude and effort that has Bonner pleased, win or lose. The longtime Hollister coach scheduled some tough non-league competition in December, including Wilcox and Valley Christian.
Even though the Balers lost both matches, they served a purpose.
“I knew Valley Christian was going to be a challenging game and different from some of the other games we’ve played,” Bonner said, referring to a 7-3 loss on Dec. 28. “But it let us know what we needed to adjust at the half, to increase our speed of play, how to collect our nerves. So the second half was great, and we were much more competitive.
“For our young girls to see a team play that quickly with the ball, I think it was the best thing we could’ve done going into league, to see that we’re mentally and physically prepared. So that was a really good game for us to check in with one another to see what we need to do to get ready for the [league] season the following week.”
For the Balers to win their first league title in nine years, they’ll most likely have to go through Salinas, which won all five of its non-league matches and its lone division match but has had three other games postponed.