It will be tough to pick up where they left off, but the Hilmar High varsity girls soccer team is keen on making a league and possibly another section final run, and head coach Doug Delay is confident that his group is ready — despite a minor shake up in the Trans Valley League.
The addition of Livingston High to the TVL makes the competition even stiffer, but the Yellowjackets boast an experienced and talented roster, much like last year, and so far, they are off to a hot start (3-0) to the year, scoring 23 goals over the first three non-league games played.
Most recently is Tuesday’s 9-0 victory over Gustine High from home that saw them notch four goals in the first half followed by five second half goals.
“Coming into this season we are bringing back the core group, but also some good additions moving up, some standout junior varsity players who are stepping up to play varsity this year,” said Delay. “We’ve got some players who haven’t played that will play this year and be good players for us coming from other sports. We are coming off good back-to-back seasons where things have gone our way, but we aren’t going to rest on that, we are trying to find our chemistry.”
With a 20-2-6 record last year, Hilmar was one of the best and most consistent teams of the season in the entire Stanislaus District.
They didn’t drop a single game in league as they went 9-0-1.
To kick things off last season, Hilmar won their first five then lost to Ceres, only to keep their unbeaten streak alive from Dec. 6, 2017, till their loss in the Division-V Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game against Ripon on March 1.
They outscored their opponents 80-8 over their 28 games played. In league, they outscored their opponents, 42-1.
“I think it is possible to be vying for the TVL again, not going to say we will go undefeated, can’t expect something like that any year,” said Delay. “But I expect us to compete in the TVL and I expect us to put us at a level to reach the playoffs. We want to go back to sections if we can, and we are working to do that.”
Last year was also the second consecutive season that the Yellowjackets squad went undefeated in league play after they went 10-0-2 in 2016-17, while also amassing an overall record of 17-4-4.
Returning this year is standout player Emily Vieira, one of the best scorers and overall players in the Valley over the past two seasons.
As a freshman, Vieira scored 21 goals and finished with a team-high 16 assists.
Last season Vieira notched 20 goals, while once again tallying a team-high 12 assists.
Alongside Vieira will be key contributors Ainsley Wood, Sarah Alvarez, Cheyann Hughes, Genavieve Fontes, Lexie Avalos, Cheyanne Cabral, Michaela Petersen and Korey Pettigrew.
Delay is expecting to have a pair of goalkeepers for the year in Isabel Patterson and Annelise Cabral, following their departure of long-time keeper Mikayla Schmidt from a year ago.
“We have players coming back, but some of them are playing different positions, so we are trying to get that chemistry and trying to control the ball how we do and have another good season,” said Delay.
Hilmar will travel on the road to take on Los Banos at 3:30 p.m. today. The ‘Jackets are also slated to take on Turlock at Joe Debely at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 12.
“This preseason schedule forces us to be better and we want to play good opponents,” Delay added. “We also have to bring our best every single league game because our opponents are looking to knock Hilmar off, and it is going to be tough. It will be a nail biter this year, but we will get ready and prepare and give it our best shot.”