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Soccer teams gear up for season

Soccer teams gear up for season

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POSTED August 27, 2010 10:38 p.m.

In the Sac-Joaquin Section record books, small-school Hilmar High has made quite a mark when it comes to boys soccer.

The Yellowjackets have a total of three Section titles. And last year, they had a chance to match Forest Lake Christian High’s four for most overall regardless of division, but the Patterson High Tigers spoiled that historic moment for Hilmar in the Division V Championship game.

Even so, the Yellowjackets are gunning for another Section title.

“We want to make it to the finals again,” said Coach Louie Bettencourt, who’s in his fourth year.

Out of all the area teams — a list that includes Pitman, Turlock, Turlock Christian and Denair — it appears that the Yellowjackets have the best shot to make a Section run, judging by their recent past successes.

Hilmar is usually considered a league contender. And it’s no different this season, even though the Yellowjackets return to the Trans Valley League to face some tough teams such as Riverbank High, Ripon High and Escalon High, with Ripon coming off a 21-win season.

Hilmar looks to be competitive again, though this year’s squad is made up of a lot of new faces, Bettencourt said. The Yellowjackets lost around a dozen seniors due to graduation, but a good chunk of them weren’t starters. Among the players they’re welcoming to the roster is Jacob Behem, a junior midfielder and exchange student from Germany.

The few returners will also play important roles, including forwards Curtis Bettencourt and Alex Bettencourt, midfielder Adan Romo and goalkeeper Kyle Joslin.

“I just hope they can play well together,” Louie Bettencourt said.

It’s safe to assume other area teams want the same thing.

Pitman looks strong again with Oscar Mercado at the helm, as the Pride are expected to be a force once their crosstown rivalry games with Turlock approach. The Bulldogs, who have only two returning seniors in Josue Barajas (a four-year varsity player) and Samuel Dominguez, have the expectations of being a contender in the new triple-round robin format that the Central California Conference picked up after losing Los Banos High to league realignments.

“This is the most talented overall group we’d ever had,” Turlock coach Doug Sperry said.

For small-school Turlock Christian, the Eagles hope to be a threat in the Southern League, which added a couple of new teams in Gustine High and Ripon Christian High. TC will do it with new coach Greg Pelton, who served as an assistant for the Eagles girls soccer team prior to this season.

Denair expects the SL to be more competitive with its newest members, but the Coyotes remain ambitious. They want to make the playoffs, after having a solid 7-8 league record in 2009. To get to this point, it’s been a long process.

Prior to becoming the head coach three years ago, Daniel Romero remembers struggling to simply “have kids come out and play.” In his first year, he saw 23 kids come out for the team, and that number — or close to it — has been consistent ever since.

And Romero believes this could be the year in which “we are fighting for a top spot in the league.”

The coach also expects senior midfielder Paul Oei to have a breakout year, one that could lead to a league MVP and a college soccer career.

Oei spent last season recovering from a head injury.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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