Boys Soccer: Balers out to show they belong

The Balers' Luis Coronado delivers a pass in a match against Greenfield.

The San Benito High boys soccer team didn’t exactly enjoy its time in the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division last year. The Haybalers tied with Salinas for last place in the MBL’s upper division a year after they won the lower Pacific Division. San Benito enters its second year in the Gabilan expecting to show it belongs with the league’s elite teams.
“I believe in this team,” first-year Balers coach Johnny Regalado said. “Everyone thinks we’ll be at the bottom again, and they don’t have a lot of expectations for us because last year we won only one game (in league). They might be thinking we’ll be the team that everyone else beats all the time. Our goal is to surprise people and pull off a lot of upsets.”
Regalado said there is enough talent to be competitive against some of the best teams in the league. In junior forward Victor Perez, the Balers have a player who has no fear when it comes to winning hotly-contested 50-50 balls.
“Victor is high intensity and never stops moving,” Regalado said. “I like how he drives toward the ball and wants to get it. He’s not scared, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
After playing defender last year, Perez has made a seamless position change to forward this season. After scoring the team’s lone goal in a season-opening draw with Greenfield, Perez scored again in a 3-0 win over Gunn on Dec. 5. Perez scored just one goal a year ago, as he focused all of his attention on defense.
“On defense, you can’t take as many chances as on offense,” Perez said. “I have a little more talent in terms of ball skills because I worked on them in the off-season, and I’m a more confident player now.”
Despite being in a league with section powerhouse programs Watsonville, Alvarez and Alisal, Perez said the team expects things to be a lot different from a year ago.
“I feel like there’s more dedication and more guys are willing to sacrifice for the team,” he said. “We’re talking a lot more on the field, and last year we didn’t have it all together. This year we’re all putting the effort in.”
At the high school level in boys soccer, the mental aspect of the game plays a bigger role than other sports. That’s because there tends to be a lot of trash talking and shenanigans on the field, and teams can easily lose their cool by retaliating. That’s what happened to the Balers a year ago, as they committed penalties at crucial moments and weren’t disciplined enough to walk away from teams trying to get under their skin.
“If things get heated, we have to learn to walk away and not retaliate,” Perez said.
Senior defender/midfielder Luis Coronado plays a valuable role in the team’s on-field communication. The Balers have two solid goalkeepers in senior Mickel Rojas and junior Erick Rosado. Abraham Arevalo, a sophomore midfielder, has impressed with his playmaking ability.
“Abraham controls the ball well, has a lot of speed and can make passes from one side of the field to the other,” Regalado said. “He’s got great vision, too.”
Senior defenders Juan Castellanos and Agustin Cortes and junior forward Jonathan Garcia have also looked strong in the early going with their steady play.
“Juan can run up and down the wing, is very tactical and has speed and vision,” Regalado said. “Jonathan has a quick shot and a nose for the goal. He could be running and one-touch the ball into the net.”
William Castellanos, the younger brother of Juan and the only freshman on the team, plays at a level belying his youth. Playing the center back position, Castellanos is expected to have a tremendous impact.
“William will be one of the leaders on this team for a long time,” Regalado said. “He knows how to control the defense and get people in position to play well and work together as a team.”
In the team’s 3-0 win over Gunn-Palo Alto on Dec. 5, the Balers received goals from Manuel Ceja, Garica and Perez. It was a confidence booster for San Benito, which scored three or more goals in a game just one time all of last season. So far in the early going, Regalado has been more than satisfied with his players’ effort.
“The boys are behaving and listening well,” he said. “I was nervous when I first took over the team because I know this level. Especially with the boys, discipline is the main challenge. But they’re done everything I’ve asked, and hopefully we can keep playing well.”

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