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Hilmar freshman comes through
Whitfords two goals lead Yellowjackets in tight league race
Hilmar High’s Morgan McFaddin, right, fights for position against a Central Catholic High defender. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
HILMAR — It’s a known fact that a freshman playing on any high school varsity sports team has a little more to prove than the other athletes. In Victoria Whitford’s case, the newcomer to Hilmar High girls soccer is willing to do pretty much anything to show that she belongs.
Even picking up the garbage, though not literally.
In an important game against Central Catholic High at Joe Mattos Field on a windy Thursday afternoon, Whitford recognized that defenders were putting all their energy and effort in stopping teammate Haylee Bettencourt, Hilmar’s top scorer. So when Bettencourt’s shot near the front of the goal bounced off the chest of goalkeeper Madison Oliveira midway through the second half, Whitford did the dirty work.
There was no one within a few feet of the ball except Whitford, who knocked in the shot to tie the game at 2-2 —  the eventual final score, an outcome that put a smile on the faces of the Hilmar players and coaches. That draw makes the chase for the Western Athletic Conference title that much tougher.
The last three meetings between the two league foes have resulted in draws.
The tie puts Central Catholic (3-0-1) and Patterson (3-1-0) ahead of the Yellowjackets (2-0-2) with a lot of games left before the postseason.
It was the Hilmar freshman that nailed both of her team’s goal, though the second one was more crucial and dramatic.
“I kind of read that it was going to reflect off the goalie,” Whitford said, “and I was just going to pick up the garbage pretty much and put it in.”
The Raiders struck first, with Sarah Manseau nailing a goal in the 35th minute, the kind of shot that Hilmar coach Louie Bettencourt called a “blooper,” pointing out that it suddenly curved out of reach, perhaps, due to the wind. He then issued his goalie, Riley Fielder, a challenge: “You let a blooper in. Make up for it in the second half.”
Though the Yellowjackets allowed another score, this one a clean look by Corin Hernandez early in the second half, Fielder managed to finish with seven saves and took charge of the defense. She said, “I picked up on defense. I made sure I pushed my defense farther. We wanted to keep them in this half as much as possible.”
That opened opportunities against a Central Catholic (11-1-2) that had only suffered one loss before Thursday afternoon. There was also a crucial moment in which one of the Raiders’ explosive forwards — Madison Zanotto — was accidentally struck in the face by a ball early in the second half, forcing her to sit out the rest of the way.
The Yellowjackets maintained in attack mode.
In the 58th minute, Whitford, the Hilmar freshman, scored when the ball bounced off of teammate Morgan McFaddin’s knee. And later, also in a serendipitous sort of way, Whitford scored in the 78th minute to tie it at 2-2.
The result meant so much that the Yellowjackets were seen smiling even while cooling down with a light jog after the game. And some of the credit goes to a freshman who was willing to do whatever it took to help her team succeed.
Whitford “was the lucky person who was at the right place, at the right time,” said Coach Bettencourt, who also credited his midfield unit for the tie.
It looks like Whitford has proven herself.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail at or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.