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Ladies on the hunt for soccer glory
Hilmar seeks another championship; SAL schools look for turnaround
soccer pic1
Yellowjacket Taylor Marcelino shoots on teammate and goalie Rebecca Sanders during practice on Monday at Hilmar High. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

Last year Hilmar High’s girls posted an undefeated, championship season in the Trans Valley League and earned a playoff berth despite having a fairly young team. Now, the Yellowjackets are back on the soccer field with an aim for another TVL championship and a section title appearance—goals they plan on achieving through experience this time around.

Jamie Rocha, Victoria Whitford, Janessa Mitchell, Kinsey Pettigrew, Carrie Machado, Chloe Fernandez, Bernadette Silveira, Gia Barcelo, and the Gemperle sisters, Savannah and Oliviah, have all returned for another shot at championship glory. That’s 10 ‘Jackets, a core that has head coach Louie Bettencourt dreaming big.

“We want to go ‘till the very end; we want to go to the dance,” Bettencourt said. “That’s the goal I’m setting and I told them they can accomplish it if they take it serious and push themselves.”

“It’s going to be the core that’s going to determine our success,” he added.

So far, Hilmar’s record is an even 2-2-2, reflecting an existing need for its players to develop a sense of cohesion early in the season. With a first year starter at the goalie position, the ‘Jackets are counting on Pettigrew, Whitford, and Rocha to shore up their strength in the mid-field until the rest of the team gets up to speed.

“We’ve played a couple decent games but there’s still a lot to go,” Bettencourt said.

Hilmar’s first TVL test comes in the form of Hughson High on Friday. The Huskies, along with Escalon and Ripon High, are expected to be Hilmar’s top competition in league this season though you wouldn’t necessarily know it from Bettencourt’s disposition.

“The only thing I concern myself with is what we can do, not what the other team can do. My philosophy has always been to keep control of what we have,” Bettencourt said. “I’m not really concerned about the undefeated thing either. I just want to get to the playoffs and work off of that; one step at a time.”


Southern Athletic League

The girls in the Southern Athletic League are also gearing up for the new season.

Delhi High hits the field with a completely different set of circumstances than Hilmar. The Hawks boast a team with only two returners, Rosemary DaLuz and Mireiyah Pelayo. The addition of Sonia Cruz and Yaneli Reyes provide power and speed to help compensate for Delhi’s lack of experience but the fact still remains, it’s a season of growth for the Hawks.

“We’re in a development stage,” head coach Armando Salazar said. “Some of the girls have never played before, so we’re going back to the basics.”

After finishing fifth in the SAL in back to back seasons, Delhi is looking to go beyond .500 and break into the upper ranks of league standings. The Hawks get their first shot at a league opponent next Wednesday when they host Mariposa County High.

“The goal for this season is to get the girls to work together,” Salazar said. “They need to start teaching each other and hopefully we can come together as a team.”

Denair High is also in a rebuilding year. After a season that saw only one win, the Coyotes return with four experienced players—Alyssa Villa, Savanah West, Talia Cardenas, and Hailey Bordenave.

“We didn’t have as many returning players as I thought we would,” head coach Greggoria DeLoa said.

“A lot of the girls either haven’t played before or haven’t played in a long time, so my goal is to get these girls to play together and to improve from the beginning to the end of the season.”

The presence of Villa, an All-League selection last season, and freshman Abigail Dirkse, a center-mid fielder with significant soccer experience, has the Coyotes hopeful for a multiple win season. Denair gets its first shot against Mariposa County on Friday.

“If we can win more than we did last year and be competitive, not a push around team, I’ll be happy with that,” DeLoa said.