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Hilmar soccer eyes league title; TC, Denair rebuilding

POSTED March 9, 2012 11:05 p.m.

Last season the Hilmar High girls soccer team finished in third place in the Trans Valley League for the second straight year, missing the league title by a few points, before advancing all the way to the second round of playoffs. Turlock Christian and Denair High weren’t as lucky as they finished in seventh and sixth place in the Southern Athletic League, respectively.

This season the girls of Hilmar, TC, and Denair plan on besting last season’s records on the soccer field and hopefully finish atop league standings when the season is through.

The Yellowjackets have lost five players from last year’s team, four of which were starters. This season Hilmar is lucky to have a mix of experienced varsity veterans and young athletic players. Returners Janessa Mitchell, Victoria Whitford, and Jamiee Rocha will be joined by freshman Kensey Pettigrew as the ‘Jackets vie for a TVL title. Hilmar will also be joined by newcomers Olivia and Savanah Gemperle and Barbara Camilo, a recent arrival from Brazil.

After competing against a handful of Division I schools during the preseason, head coach Louie Bettencourt likes his team’s chances.

“The main thing is making sure they bond and work as 11,” Bettencourt said. “We’ve changed some things up in the midfield and I think it’s going to make a big difference.”

TC’s seventh place finish a year ago can be attributed to a small pool of athletes, as well as a lack of travel soccer experience.

“We don’t have any girls that play outside of our season,” TC’s head coach Shirley Brand said.

Luckily for the Eagles, they only lost two players from last season, creating a roster full of experience as well as a will to improve. Heading the Eagles this season will be Natalie Snyder who is still competing on the basketball court and has yet to lace up her soccer cleats.

TC and Snyder will also be joined by a handful of players who are new to the sport. The lack of experience by some and the inability to practice with a full squad may hurt the Eagles early in the season, but the team’s enthusiasm has its coach confident in its ability.

“They have the heart; we have some dedicated girls,” Brand said. “I think we can do really well.”

As for Denair, the Coyotes expect the arrival of first year head coach Gregorio DeLoa to ignite a resurgence in 2012. With an even mix of seniors and freshman, DeLoa, who coached Ripon High’s boys a year ago, plans on changing the culture of Denair’s soccer program by emphasizing team unity and technical prowess.

“One of our goals this season is to finish above .500,” DeLoa said. “I think we have a chance if we combine the physical with the mental aspects of the game.”

The youth on Denair’s team is considered a plus for DeLoa who looks to build a future for Denair soccer through the success of this season.

“If we can do well we’ll have a strong foundation for next year,” DeLoa said.

Hilmar’s first league match will be against Ripon on Tuesday. Denair faces Mariposa and TC plays Gustine High on Tuesday as well.

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