By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
‘Jackets win double overtime thriller over Sonora, punch ticket to second straight section final
Hilmar girls soccer
The Yellowjackets took their first lead of the match against Sonora on Wednesday in the 55th minute thanks to a goal by freshman Raylynn Mendoza (pictured here in an early season game) (ALEX MORALES/The Journal).

A pair of goals in the second overtime period lifted the No. 4 seeded Hilmar Yellowjackets (21-5-2) to a 5-3 victory over top-seeded Sonora (16-6-1) on Wednesday night in the semifinal round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 girls soccer playoffs. They will face No. 6 Argonaut at 4 p.m. Saturday in the section championship game at Cosumnes River College in Elk Grove.

Overtime goals were made by sophomore Brisa Gonzales and freshman Raylynn Mendoza. By the end of Wednesday's back-and-forth affair in the rainy and windy hills of Sonora, Hilmar head coach Guy Bettencourt didn’t hesitate to proclaim the match as one of the most exciting he had ever seen in his many years of coaching. Although he and his team were all smiles in the moments following the final whistle, looks of concern filled their sidelines in the opening minutes.

Within the first 10 minutes of action, Sonora jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Reese Kuykendall and Estrella Maldonado. It wasn’t until first half stoppage time that the Yellowjackets got on the board thanks to sophomore Alexis Aguiar, who fired her 12th goal of the season from roughly 20 yards out. 

“We were shell-shocked after those first two goals,” Bettencourt admitted. “Being behind 2-0 off the bat, it can be demoralizing. Especially against the No. 1 seed and playing on turf in the pouring rain where we were slipping, and the high altitude, it was like everything was against us. But Alexis’ goal got our spirits up. It really helped us to get going and allowed us to regroup at halftime.”

Just two minutes into the second half, Gonzales, Hilmar’s top scorer with a team-leading 26 goals on the season heading into Wednesday, knotted things up at two thanks to her signature “knuckleball” kick from just outside the penalty area. The ball, which she struck with the top of her foot, was sent directly at goalkeeper Allyson Holland. Right when Holland expected to catch it or punch it away, it quickly curved downwards, similar to that of a knuckleball pitch in baseball.

“I had never seen that before,” Bettencourt said. “I kid you not. I’m not even exaggerating. The ball disappeared. It was coming full speed before it dropped under her arm. Almost like it went under the goalie’s armpit. I asked, ‘What was that?’ She just responded, ‘Oh, that was my knuckleball,’ like it was nothing special. It was so funny and so spectacular. She’s amazing.”

The Yellowjackets took their first lead of the match in the 55th minute thanks to a low strike by Mendoza to the left hand corner of the net. It was her 12th goal of the season.

“We call Raylynn our Energizer Bunny,” Bettencourt shared. “She’s small, but she’s fast, she’s elusive and she never falls down. She just keeps going. And the fact that she’s only a freshman is exciting… I never call-up freshmen unless I know they’ll get playing time because I want them to develop properly, but this one is proving that she can play at a high level.”

The lead would be short-lived as the Wildcats tied the match up two minutes later after a corner kick delivered by Hailey Watkins was received and fired in by Moriah Machado.

The score remained tied at three for the remainder of regulation and through the first 10-minute overtime period. But it was only a matter of time till Gonzales struck again three minutes into the second overtime. In the waning minutes, Mendoza also picked up her second goal of the game to put the Wildcats away for good. As the final whistle blew, the Hilmar bench ran onto the field to embrace under the rain.

“A sight to see,” Bettencourt said of the celebration. “The thing is, in games like this, you have to leave it all on the field, and that’s what these girls did, and it showed in the emotions of that celebration. They never gave up, even when things weren’t going our way. This team never gives up.”

The 16-6-2 Argonaut team that they will face Saturday for the right to lift a blue banner is one that the Yellowjackets are familiar with. The two teams squared off on Dec. 28 in the Ripon Christian pre-league tournament. The ‘Jackets were beaten 3-2 in penalty kicks in the 2-2 final. It was the only game of the season that Bettencourt was unable to attend.

“We lost that one, but our team has improved so much over the course of the season,” Bettencourt said. “We have a legit shot to win that blue banner. I can’t wait and the girls can’t wait.”