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‘Jackets edge Bruins in TVL battle
Hilmar girls soccer
Ashlyn Azevedo of Hilmar High attempts to grab a loose ball during Tuesday’s 2-1 home victory over Riverbank (EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal).

The battle for the top spot in the Trans-Valley League is heating up for girls soccer after the Hilmar High Yellowjackets edged out Riverbank High on Tuesday in a 2-1 victory, setting up a crucial matchup with Livingston on Thursday for second place.

“I give them (Riverbank) a lot of credit and they had a lot of energy today and they out hustled us. We were able to minimize the damages and get a win there, but we just didn’t play well,” said Hilmar head coach Doug Delay. “We had a pocket of good standout individual players, but we didn’t possess the ball cleanly and our first touch was awful to say the least, today just wasn’t our day.”

Despite Delay’s comments, the ‘Jackets came out ready to play as they created multiple chances early on, while maintaining possession.

They attacked early and quickly, but nothing fell in until the 18th minute when senior captain Lexie Avalos found the back of the net after striking the near post and the ball eased its way into the side of the post and in the back of the net for the first goal to make it 1-0.

Three minutes later, Hilmar found the back of the net once again after Genavieve Fontes struck a goal after an Emily Vieira cross inside the goalie’s box, which made it 2-0.

Hilmar missed at least two chances in the first half, including a Fontes opportunity in the first six minutes of the second half that saw her in a one-on-one situation.

It didn’t happen again after Riverbank began to press and control possession for the remainder of the second half.

They caused turnovers, and their scrappy play made Hilmar hesitant at times.

“One of those games where the first 25 minutes we pressured pretty well and we had a ton of chances that we didn’t convert. If we can convert half of our chances then we are looking at a different game,” said Delay.

It looked like a newly revamped and energized team in the second half as they cut the lead to 2-1 after 49-minute goal by the Bruins.

Riverbank nearly tied the game on two chances, especially a 79-minute strike that was barely stopped by the goalkeeper just inches away from going to the back of the net.

Hilmar was able to hold off as they won their second straight, including their third league victory over the last four played.

Hilmar’s current TVL record is 3-1, while their overall record improves to 10-8.

Hilmar’s next game will be a road contest at Livingston High at 5 p.m. Thursday.