The 2016-17 Trans-Valley League season fared well for the Hilmar varsity boys soccer team, which was coming off a Section championship run the prior year.
This past season, however, saw them finishing in second place with a TVL posting of 9-3, earning a berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI playoffs. Unfortunately, the Yellowjackets fell in the first round.
Now, head coach Louie Bettencourt is boasting arguably one of his youngest and most talented teams he has ever had and his enthusiasm for the future is evident.
“Five freshmen [have been] called up for varsity squad. They have great ball skill,” said Bettencourt. “We should be able to make it into the playoffs if, hopefully, they play how I have seen them. We are very capable of doing it. It is just a matter if they want to do it, you know. I am excited for them because whenever you have new talent and freshmen, they push themselves since they are not familiar with this.”
Bettencourt knows it will take time and patience for his young group to acclimate to the varsity speed, but he is confident of the team’s success.
The team will be relying on a handful of returners that include Miguel Padilla and Marc Matos and football kicker Bryan Millan, who has been a standout for his football team’s run into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI final.
The goal is to make the playoffs according to Bettencourt.
“Object is to get into the playoffs, that is why we play in league, and getting to that point it will be very important as far as some of these players,” said Bettencourt. “I think we had to fill about three spots and should be able to fill them, only set back just depends how fast they adapt and what they are going to do. As far as smarts and ball skill, they are gifted.”
Look for the ‘Jackets to be in the mix atop the TVL standings for the next couple years, if injuries don’t hinder their ability to perform.
“With the talent we had last year and this year’s talent, we could be one of those schools that our goal is to bring a state title,” Bettencourt added. “Be the first to bring a state title maybe when they turn juniors and seniors they will have a lot of experience, anything is possible just depends how bad they want it. I always tell them what you put into it is what you get out of it.”
Hilmar will open up the season with a game against Golden Valley from the Pitman Pride Cup at 9:30 a.m. Friday.