The new season is underway for varsity boys soccer and Hilmar and Hughson High have big goals and aspirations.
Hilmar is off to a 2-0 start, while Hughson has dropped its first two games.
Don’t count the Huskies out quite yet. First first-year head coach Tevin Jones, who was at Turlock Christian previously, thinks the team can definitely rally.
“As a team, playoffs are the goal…Last year I wasn’t the coach, but they played Hilmar and took a 2-0 lead, then let them come back and lost 3-2,” said Jones. “But that is the type of team we were last year and that is the type of team we are trying to be again this year, to compete with the teams everyone expects to be first or second but we should be right there with them, fighting.”
Hilmar brings back all but two on their starting lineup from last season’s D5 Sac-Joaquin Section title run.
In that section title game, Hilmar topped Encina Prep, 6-4, in a wild overtime contest.
They fell in the second round of the D5 CIF Nor Cal Regional Tournament and head coach Louie Bettencourt hasn’t forgotten.
“The Nor-Cal game we played, I am still a little bitter, because we didn’t play how we are capable of playing. So, this year I have been trying to put forward that if they work hard, they will be rewarded. They cannot let up, just have to work hard,” said Bettencourt.
Along with postseason aspirations, Hilmar is also eyeing a league title.
“I have been telling them the perspective, first we have to get into the playoffs,” said Bettencourt. “Second, we take league then take it one game at a time and go to sections and go from there, take one game at a time. But, let’s put some goals ahead of us, let’s make playoffs, win league and go from there.”
Winning the Trans Valley League title isn’t easy by any means, especially since the Yellowjackets have to worry about the likes of consistent powerhouse Livingston.
Livingston won the TVL title with an 11-1 record last season.
Hilmar followed in second with a 9-2-1 record, while Hughson took fifth at 5-7.
Hilmar ended up topping Livingston in the final game of the regular season, 5-1.
“Livingston will be there... Riverbank I would imagine, Escalon, Ripon… I mean it is going to be a tough league, but we are going out there to give it our best shot,” said Bettencourt. “Hopefully, we can get that league title since we haven’t done that for a while.
“I really have high expectations because of what we did last year, only losing two players, I have been trying to get into their minds that the only team that can beat us is ourselves, that is how we are going to get better,” Bettencourt added. “There is a lot of talent, and the biggest thing is there is just one ball and not everyone can get the ball. It is about being patient and working together will be the big factor, once they get on a rhythm they will see and it will be a big plus for us.”
Jones and his Hughson Huskies squad know that competing in the TVL is extremely challenging, but he thinks they have what it takes to earn a playoff spot.
The Huskies will rely on a couple of key seniors, while they also bring in three freshmen, including their goalkeeper who is over 6 feet and plays for the Academica youth squad.
“We have a couple key seniors and they have been with the program four years now and are technically the best and just great leaders for the team. I’m super excited for the next few years,” said Jones.