Soccer: Balers go all in for each other

Balers junior Rachel Peterson suffered a season-ending injury, but that hasn't stopped the standout defender from attending the team's matches.

Despite having to make lineup changes to account for the numerous injuries sustained throughout the season, the San Benito High girls soccer team has maintained a high level of play. The Haybalers entered the week with a 3-1-1 record in the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division, tied for first place with Christopher and Gilroy.

The fact that San Benito has not only stayed afloat but is in the thick of things for the division championship speaks volumes of its chemistry, depth and a true team first mentality. Balers coach Becky Bonner has established a culture where the players are held accountable both on and off the field, practices are intense but fun and everyone supports each other.

Before every home game, the Balers gather for a meal, either at a players’ house or at Round Table Pizza.

“Coach Bonner always wants us to jell,” said Jada Taylor, a forward. “It feels like a real big family, and she wants to make sure we have a lot of bonding time.”

Bonner also encourages the players to volunteer at local community events. It’s all a part of being a well-rounded student athlete. Vanessa Garcia, a sophomore midfielder/defender, and Rachel Peterson, a junior defender, both carry a 4.0 GPA. Peterson had a standout sophomore season and was projected to earn All-MBL honors again before she sustained a torn ACL in her right knee against Piedmont Hills in the team’s fourth game of the season.

Despite being done for the season, Peterson has attended the majority of the team’s matches since she got injured.

“I want to be there for the team because they’ve been so supportive through this,” Peterson said. “I’m extremely proud of the girls for how they’re playing and motivating each other.”

Garcia and Peterson both have an inner drive to do well academically.

“I’m hard on myself,” Garcia said. “If I don’t finish my school work, there will be no extracurricular activity for me.”

The team has a 3.2 GPA and lost no one to eligibility in the recent grading period.

“Vanessa and Rachel are perfect examples of a student-athlete,” Bonner said. “Both girls take advanced placement classes and are great at time management. They both excel on and off the field due to their work ethic and positive attitudes.”

Bonner genuinely cares for her players, to the point she’ll tear up when talking about someone’s injury or well-being. It’s no wonder the players go all out and play with a ferocity and determination perhaps greater than any team in the league.

“She just wants us to do our best,” Taylor said.

Sophomores make up three-fourths of the roster, and a number of them have grown up together playing in youth leagues and traveling teams.

“I’ve known almost all of these girls since I was 7,” Garcia said. “The highlight of my season is getting to be with all my friends and coming together. Outside of soccer, we’re friends, and that helps a lot during games. We just hang out like it’s a normal everyday thing. We all know each other pretty well, and that makes the transition easier.”

Indeed, Taylor is the perfect example for making a transition, as she started the season at defender before being switched to forward. Taylor has boosted the team with her speed and ability to make plays.

“Jada is a very aggressive player who creates opportunities out of her tenacity and natural speed,” Bonner said.

When it comes to prep sports, chemistry and unselfishness are not a given within the dynamics of a team. With the San Benito girls soccer squad, however, it’s there in abundance.

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