Last season was one for the books for the Hilmar Yellowjackets varsity boys’ soccer team.
The 'Jackets made the playoffs, won 17 games and ultimately won the programs fourth Sac-Joaquin Section banner after winning out in the Division VI bracket, ending in a penalty kicks victory over Gustine in an unforgettable match from Stagg High on Nov. 14, 2015.
All in all, it was one that head coach Louie Bettencourt and the entire program was more than excited about—they loved it—and despite losing some key contributors for the upcoming season, the team is confident they will certainly be a competitive squad.
“I hope that enthusiasm from last year will build,” said Bettencourt. “It was fantastic. I think a lot had to do that in the finals a lot went our way. I know it was a very close battle and could've been anybody's game but I have to give credit to the guys, but we also had some luck.”
Last year, the boys won the D-VI Section title with a 17-4-2 record overall and took second in the Trans-Valley League with an 8-1-1 record.
Although they took second in the TVL, they went head first into the tournament and went on a strong run, squandering just two goals in three playoff games while scoring 10 of their own.
“Long as we can make it into the playoffs then I think it’s anybody's game. That is my goal to get us in the playoffs and hopefully we can surprise people from there,” said Bettencourt of the upcoming year. “Yeah we have a young team but I told them they have to take it one step at a time.”
Brian Millan is back as a sophomore. Last year as a freshman he had the only assist of the game for Hilmar in the Championship game. That assist went to another returner for the 'Jackets, Michael Cardoso, who is expected to continue his impressive progression after scoring the only goal in regulation for Hilmar in the D-VI finale.
Along with Cardoso and Millan will be Jaime Carbajal and Agustin Granados.
“Hopefully these four guys can help lead the team and lead the freshman and fill those shoes to help out,” said Bettencourt. “As long as they contribute as far as helping them reach that level of last year we are capable of doing well this season.”
Bettencourt will look to his four returners to help lead a herd of newcomers after graduating seven players from last year’s team.
“We also have another few capable younger guys that can start for us but we will see when the season starts,” said Bettencourt.
Hilmar will host Los Banos in their season opener at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 29.