College Soccer: Mariscal finds his groove

Former Balers standout Rigoberto Mariscal earned All-Coast Conference Second-Team honors playing defender for Hartnell College.

The Hartnell College men’s soccer team had just won its fourth game in as many contests, a 4-0 drubbing of host Fresno City College. But it was a long bus ride home for Rigoberto Mariscal, who could only think of one thing the entire way back home to Salinas.
“I was like, ‘Dang, I quit a decent paying job for this?” he said. “It really started bothering me, and that’s when I really started to bust my butt.”
Things haven’t been the same since for Mariscal, a 21-year-old freshman and 2013 San Benito High graduate. Once Mariscal was inserted into the starting lineup, he never relinquished the spot. For his efforts, Mariscal earned All-Coast Conference Second-Team honors last season.
“I was surprised and pumped when I found out,” Mariscal said. “I’ve worked so hard and come a long way.”
Of that, there is no doubt. In a bit of serendipity, Mariscal registered for classes on the last day before the deadline when he would be eligible to play for the team. Mariscal wasn’t planning on playing at all until two of his former teammates from San Benito, Cesar Perez and Juan Castillo, approached him on campus one day and asked him to try out for the team.
It was four days before the team’s first game against San Joaquin Delta on Aug. 29, and just in the nick of time.
“They asked me how come I wasn’t playing,” he said. “They convinced me to talk to the coach and try out, and I felt I had to take advantage of the opportunity.”
So continued a journey with more twists and turns than a Stephen King novel. Out of high school, Mariscal attended Gavilan for a semester, Hartnell for two semesters and then San Joaquin Delta before coming back to Hartnell last semester. The tumultuous journey—his family moving played a part in going to Delta—meant Mariscal simply has had to overcome a few more bouts of adversity to get to this point.
“Everything has been worth it,” he said. “I’m working on getting bigger and staying on track in school. So far, I’m doing a good job. I’m going to continue to work hard because I want to get a scholarship.”
At 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds, Mariscal has the height that four-year programs covet. Mariscal has gained 15 pounds since his senior year of high school, and he expects to pack on at least five more pounds of muscle by the time the 2016-17 season starts in late August.
On that fateful bus ride home, Mariscal knew something had to change. So he went into every practice as if his salvation depended on it, getting physical with teammates with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Mariscal harnessed the physical play with skill, utilizing his agility and speed to earn a starting position against Cabrillo on Oct. 2.
“He was a complete soccer player,” said Tony Deras, who coached Mariscal when he was at San Benito. “He played all positions but goalie. He was very strong winning most 50-50 balls and had great vision on the field.”
Mariscal said he loves playing for a program that established itself as one of the best in the state last season. The Panthers were 18-1-2 and the top seed entering the NorCal tournament only to be upset in the second round. Mariscal said the players might have been too confident after completing a regular season in which Hartnell routinely steamrolled opponents.
“It makes us that much more motivated to work harder and make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Born in Chicago, Mariscal was raised by his mom and grandparents. Mariscal’s grandfather, Roberto, has been such a positive influence that he considers him his dad. Mariscal worked at Earthbound Farms before having to quit because of his soccer commitments. While the job was tough to give up at first, he’s had no regrets.

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