The 2015 spring season just began on Wednesday for Hilmar High, but already the Yellowjackets have four matches under their belt and at least one more scheduled for today. It's the kind of starting schedule one would expect from a team trying to improve on a fourth place Trans Valley League finish last season.
The season before last saw Hilmar win the TVL title for a second consecutive time. It's a familiar position head coach Louie Bettencourt hopes to reach again.
“I think we're going to be contenders for league, that's my drive. We should be contenders and right up there at one-two,” Bettencourt said. “That's what I'm expecting. You never know, but right now what I see, I see that when they start gelling together they'll make a big difference.”
Bettencourt's biggest assets in Hilmar's quest for another TVL title are senior Kinsey Pettigrew and Gia Barcelos who played all ten games for the 'Jackets last season with Pettigrew finishing as the team's leading scorer with 13 goals.
But while the senior duo will anchor Hilmar this season, there's still a significant amount of fresh blood on the roster who will have to become impact players as they progress through the schedule. As of now, freshman Mikayla Schmidt and Juliann Machado have emerged as newcomers to watch with Schmidt tending the goal and Machado playing up top.
“I'm pretty impressed with what I've seen out of her,” Bettencourt said of Schmidt.
There are still growing pains to be had, however. After playing for a 1-1 tie with Turlock High on Thursday, Hilmar entered the Extreme Spring Soccer Tournament at Pitman High on Friday and dropped its two games against Golden Valley and Lincoln High. The 'Jackets lost their first match to the Cougars 2-1 in a loss that was credited to a mental mistake, but there was no splitting hairs about their 5-0 loss to Lincoln in the second match.
“They were to the ball first, they were a little more physical than we were. We weren’t expecting them to be that physical and they were pretty fast,” Bettencourt said of Golden Valley. “I'm going to try to push them (the girls) in that direction. Because once they find our you're not physical they'll take advantage of that.”
Bettencourt hopes to see improvement this morning against Oakdale High in the first match of the tournament's second day before next week's schedule arrives that has Los Banos, Gustine and Orestimba High lined up to share the pitch.
“They're another physical team that controls the ball well. We're going step up and apply pressure if we're going to be contenders in the game,” Bettencourt said of the Mustangs. “We can't just sit around and watch. We need to step up and put the pressure on them.”
Hilmar and Oakdale play at 10 a.m. on field 8 of the Turlock Sports and Recreation Complex.