Three-sport star Villegas makes an impact on the pitch

Three-sport standout Marisa Villegas has made an impact on the pitch this season.

In her first two years at San Benito High, Marisa Villegas has performed remarkable feats in volleyball and track and field.
It was only a matter of time before the super sophomore made an impact on the soccer field. That moment occurred on Jan. 7, when Villegas drilled a shot from 35 yards away in the 76th minute to give the Haybalers a 2-1 win over Gilroy in a Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division opener.
Villegas’ strike—it was an unstoppable shot that landed under the top crossbar with room to spare—gave San Benito its first win of the season. The Balers improved to 1-3-3, while Gilroy dropped to 1-6-0.
“Right when I kicked the ball, I thought it was going to go over the net,” Villegas said. “It was a lucky shot.”
Villegas was being modest. As one of the team’s best defenders, Villegas doesn’t practice too much on long-range shots. However, Villegas displayed athleticism and power with one quick strike.
“We don’t do a lot of long shots at practice, but growing up you work on long shots and hopefully it comes in handy,” she said.
When Villegas scored, she had a flashback to last year, when she was playing on the junior varsity team. Playing against Salinas, Villegas scored the game-winner to win the league championship.
Villegas, who started playing soccer at age 4, still counts what many refer to as the beautiful game as her favorite sport. However, her love for volleyball and track just about rivals her passion for soccer.
“Whatever season I’m in, I love playing the sport,” she said. “Soccer has been my favorite sport ever since I started playing it, but I love volleyball and track, too.”
From a results standpoint, the defending Gabilan Division champion Balers got off to a rough start this season. They played some strong teams in the non-league portion of their schedule, including Leigh of San Jose, Palo Alto and Los Gatos.
The team hopes the tough slate will prove beneficial in the long run.
“Our goal this season is to win league, and hopefully this gets us on the right track,” Villegas said. “We played some pretty tough teams in the preseason (non-league), and I think it made us better and more prepared to start and do well in league play.”
Against Gilroy, the Balers’ Chace Miguel made a number of strong runs and created a couple of scoring chances.
Austin Perez scored the game’s first goal on a rebound in the 27th minute, and goalkeeper Jen Martin had a spectacular game, highlighted by a diving kick save midway through the second half to prevent San Benito from falling behind.
As expected, Perez has been a key addition to the team. She missed all of last season due to a knee injury, and her playmaking skills were evident against the Mustangs. A natural goal scorer, Perez figures to play a prominent role in San Benito’s quest to defend its league championship.
Like Perez, Villegas plays with toughness, tenacity and grit. Balers coach Becky Bonner always gets the players to play at a high intensity level, and they’re hoping for improvement as the season goes along.
Villegas has had to adjust to the varsity level after playing on the JV squad a year ago.
“Coming to the varsity this year, I knew there was going to be such a big difference in talent and the speed of the game,” she said. “It’s such a big step up, but I think the transition is going well.”
Villegas is used to transitions by now. As a three-sport athlete, Villegas literally goes from sport to sport with no rest in between. From volleyball to soccer to track, Villegas has no time to rest during the school year.
Fortunately, she’s got youth on her side.
“When I come from volleyball to soccer or from soccer to the track, I’m in pretty good shape,” she said. “There’s still a transition, but at least I know I’ll be able to hang in there for a long event.”

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