Before the season started, the San Benito High field hockey team had a goal to contend for a Monterey Bay League championship. With just three league matches remaining, the Haybalers (4-1-1 in league) will probably have to win out to knock off perennial league power Gilroy from its perch.
“We’re trying to get into that No. 1 spot, along with Christopher and North Salinas,” Balers coach Molly Macierz said. “We’re thinking, ‘OK, it’s our time.’”
Ever since San Benito started a field hockey program three years ago, it has been tough defensively but somewhat lacking offensively. This season the Balers are scoring at a slightly higher rate, but they’ve still struggled to put the ball in the goal against some of the stronger teams in the league.
However, San Benito is playing at an even high level defensively, which has been the key factor to the team’s success. Despite having trouble clearing the ball out of their zone in a 1-1 draw with North Salinas last Friday, the Balers have been rock-solid on the defensive end, starting with defenders Mia Martinez, Karina Collins and Dennys Lopez, who played the entire game and earned a promotion to the varsity squad a month ago.
“Dennys was probably our standout defensive player (against North Salinas),” Macierz said. “She’s made a huge impact with us and fits right in. She’s made some amazing plays.”
Collins, who also plays in the midfield, is a versatile talent who moves the ball around well while playing strong defense. Martinez is always around the ball and often quells an opposing team’s attacks. Of course, no defense is secure without strong goalies, and the Balers have two in Yasmin Gonzalez and Katalina Santiago.
Gonzalez played the first half against North Salinas, and Santiago played the second half and overtime period.
“They both made some great saves,” Macierz said. “They work together well, and we rely on them to keep the score down.”
Gonzalez and Santiago did just that; in particular, Santiago made a couple of point-blank saves in the second half and OT session to preserve the tie. Macierz was impressed with everyone she put into the North Salinas game, including forwards Railyn King, Kyla Mead and Olivia Gonzalez.
“All three of them have been scoring for us,” Macierz said.
Speaking of scoring, it was midfielder Katelyn Tedesco who scored the Balers’ lone goal with 14 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the second half. Tedesco was sprinting down the center of the field toward the North Salinas goal when King delivered a perfect pass from the right wing.
Tedesco, who also plays forward, one-timed the shot to the lower right corner, a beautiful piece of execution. Sam Sanchez, Mackenzie Honeycutt, Kayla McKeon, Mead and Collins all have made an impact at midfielder.
“I’m proud of our midfielders because they’re putting it all together,” Macierz said.
The Balers are intent on upping their scoring output, especially since teams like Gilroy are tough to score on. Whatever happens, Macierz will be happy if the players give the same effort they did against North Salinas.
“We were playing our game,” she said. “We played hard, disciplined and with intensity.”
The Balers are accomplished student-athletes, as their team GPA is in the high 3’s. When the recent grading report came out, Macierz expressed tremendous pride in regards to the players.
“It knocked my socks off,” she said. “It was very impressive. They’re students first and athletes second, not the other way around.”