Girls Soccer: Balers make history

Balers junior Emmalyn Irvin splits two Westmont defenders in a 4-1 victory.

The San Benito High girls soccer team made history on Wednesday night, whipping host Westmont 4-1 in a Central Coast Section Division I playoff opener. The Haybalers won their first-ever section playoff game (not counting a forfeit victory over Palo Alto three years ago that was awarded one day after the game was played).
“It’s great that we’re the team to do that,” said sophomore defender Rachel Peterson, who had another solid performance. “It’s pretty special to be a part of.”
The No. 11 seed Balers (12-5-2) did it in impressive fashion, pulling away from the No. 6 seed Warriors (15-2-3) by scoring two goals in the first four minutes of the second half to make it 3-0 after they went into halftime with a 1-0 lead. Just like that, San Benito had essentially iced the outcome.
“The second half we were hyping each other up,” junior midfielder Emmalyn Irvin said. “We were excited to go out on the field again, and we kept on telling each other to get another goal. Then we pounded a couple of more in.”
Westmont couldn’t hang with San Benito—literally. The Balers used their superior fitness to wear down the Warriors, who were the co-champions of the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division.
Westmont made a couple of strong runs off long balls in the first 15 minutes, but after that the Balers controlled the possession.
In the 32nd minute, Carly Lowi displayed some nifty footwork along the left flank, juking two defenders as she dribbled 20 yards before delivering a perfect pass to a streaking Shantay Tamez in the 18-yard box. Tamez one-timed a shot under the goalkeeper’s legs, a bang-bang play that highlighted the quick-strike capability of the San Benito offense.
Speaking of quick strikes, Alyssa Bengivengo put the team up 2-0 just two minutes into the second half, off an assist from Austin Perez. Two minutes later, the Balers struck again when Lowi connected on a shot from the top of the left side of the 18-yard box.
With no defender around her, Lowi booted a floater out of the reach of the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead. In the 49th minute, Kayla King feathered a nice pass to Bengivengo, who hit an absolute laser for a one-timer into the upper left corner for a commanding 4-0 lead.
The Balers were in sync all game, with players like Perez, Peterson, Lucy Alcala, Kassy Moreno and Marisa Villegas helping to control the possession.
“We’ve been playing with each other for a long time, and it shows out there on the field,” Irvin said.
Said Peterson: “We’ve played and practiced so much together that things flow naturally. We get out there and there’s a rhythm to our play.”
Indeed, San Benito put on a powerhouse performance, finishing with a decisive 19-4 shots-on-goal advantage, and a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks. They’ll need to put forth a similar effort against No. 3 seed Presentation (16-3-2), a perennial section power that finished third in the powerful West Catholic League this season.
Whatever happens, the Balers have made history. They’ve done it with players like Perez and Irvin, who have both overcome multiple knee surgeries to come back stronger than ever. Irvin, a junior, had three surgeries before she was 16, a result of suffering two torn ACLs and a torn meniscus, all on her left knee.
But Irvin, along with her teammates, pride themselves on their physical play and conditioning.
“We kind of saw they (Westmont) getting tired,” Irvin said. “We knew we had to keep on attacking.”
Said Peterson: “We sensed they were getting a bit down and didn’t have as much energy to keep up. We’re a team that likes to run and be out there for a while.”

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