Balers have plenty to be proud of

The Balers' Abel Rivera takes possession Tuesday against St. Francis. Photo by Robert Eliason.

After a 5-1 demolition of a solid Serra team in the Central Coast Section Division I playoff quarterfinals, the San Benito High boys soccer team seemed primed to go the distance. It wasn’t meant to be. The No. 2 seed Haybalers saw their season end in a 2-0 loss to No. 3 St. Francis Tuesday in a semifinal at Valley Christian-San Jose.

“Honestly, I don’t know what happened,” Haybalers coach Marco Orozco said. “We’ve been playing good, but today was not our game. I think some of our players were not in it, especially on the back (end). We made some mistakes, and they got us.”

Indeed, both of St. Francis’ goals came off of defensive miscues, with the first coming on a lack of a communication and the second on several failed clear attempts. Balers goalkeeper Manny Luna had no chance at either of them.

“Things that were practiced, the players didn’t put into play today,” Orozco said. “We’ve put what we’ve practiced in other games, but today, not so much.”

Despite the loss, the Balers have plenty to be proud of. A year after winning a CCS playoff game for the first time in program history, San Benito went a round farther in finishing 11-4-8 overall and 6-2-4—good for a tie for second place—in the ultra competitive MBL Gabilan Division. One could say this San Benito team established itself as the greatest in program history.

But against a disciplined St. Francis squad, the Balers had to be at their best—and they weren’t. They never got into a consistent rhythm, resulting in just a couple of legitimate scoring chances. Their best chances to score came off the foot of Edgar Barbosa, who had a laser for a shot go slightly wide in the 13th minute and a nicely executed chip shot go wide left in the 54th.

And other than a couple of goal-stopping saves from Luna, San Benito had few highlights. Manny Ceja had an outstanding postseason, scoring six of the team’s eight goals. Orozco said he was proud of the players and what they gave this season. He pointed to the leadership of Abraham Arevalo and Jerry Torres, the tenacity of Jose Agredano and the breakthrough of Erik Servin.

“I could put Erik at right back, right wing or left wing, and he would respond,” Orozco said. “I can go on and on about our players because they were all terrific.”

Even though the Balers will graduate four senior starters, they’ll return a strong nucleus next season to potentially make another deep playoff run. Orozco is looking for players like midfielder Pedro Laguna—who is one of the more physical players on the team—to take his game to the next level.

“He needs to be a little more disciplined, but other than that, he has what it takes to get the team to another level,” Orozco said. “I think the players who are returning will work hard to improve and come back stronger next year.”

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