Balers coming up on short end

Balers midfielder Jorge Ruiz has been a key playmaker this season. Photo by Robert Eliason.

In his third start of the season, Jorge Molina Ruiz showed why he’s one of the best offensive talents on the San Benito High boys soccer team. Playing against North Monterey County on Jan. 18, Ruiz had three legitimate scoring opportunities in the first half alone, barely missing on all three.

That was the theme of the day for the Haybalers, who had to settle for a 1-1 tie despite dominating the possession. San Benito earned its first point in Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division play after dropping its first two matches to Soledad and Alisal. Unfortunately for the Balers, after the NMC match they went on to lose their next four matches in league play, all by one goal.  

They entered the week with a mark of 0-6-1 in Gabilan Division play, with five of those six defeats coming by one goal. Whatever happens, Ruiz looks like a player to watch out for the remainder of the season and next year. The junior midfielder displayed some nifty footwork against NMC, which allowed him to create space for himself, key since at 5-foot-4 Ruiz can be pushed off the ball by bigger defenders.

However, Ruiz was a big reason why the Balers held the run of play, as he dribbled by defenders with ease. Ruiz was actually benched in the first game he started, but has come on strong lately.

“I was really nervous in the first game I started, so I just tried to keep working,” Ruiz said. “Coach (Greg Dolan) liked how I played in the midfield, so he put me there and I’ve been trying to make plays ever since.”

Ruiz possesses a laser shot of a left leg, agility and the ability to create enough daylight in traffic to unleash a shot from anywhere around 30 yards and in. Nervous at the start of the match, Ruiz settled down nicely.

“Once I got that first shot everything changed,” he said.

San Benito went up 1-0 on North Monterey County when Jose Agredano made one of the finer passes you’ll ever see at the high school level, threading a ball from just inside the right sideline near the midfield line all the way to a streaking Edgar Barbosa Rosales, who banged home a shot in the 48th minute. Just a minute or two later, Agredano produced another terrific pass to Juan Orozco, whose header went wide right by a foot or two. It was one of several near-misses for a San Benito team that had its way with the visitors.

Unfortunately for the Balers, they failed to clear a ball in front of their goal, allowing NMC to get the equalizer in the 57th minute. Instead of picking up three points for a win, San Benito had to settle for one point for the draw. The one or two key mental errors have been costly for the Balers this season.

“It’s a little tough but from the last two games (against Soledad and Alisal), we’ve improved a lot,” Balers defender Abel Rivera said. “This game by far we had more shots and more chances. We also moved the ball a lot more. The thing we can improve on maybe is movement off the ball to check in and want and get the ball. We also need to talk to each other more. If we’re not vocal, you see what happens.”

Balers goalkeeper Wilbert Casaca had an excellent performance, coming off his line when needed and making all the plays necessary. On the NMC goal, Casaca and his teammates didn’t communicate well enough to clear the ball out. Erik Servin and Erwin Gomez Puerta also were two of the more active players, with Servin making a sensational pass to Agredano midway through the first half that almost led to a goal.

It’s only a  matter of time before Ruiz finds the back of the net. He created some great scoring chances against NMC, juking defenders and cutting across the grain at times to freeze players before either unleashing a high percentage shot or passing to a teammate around the top of the 18-yard box.

“I’ll be satisfied if I get plenty of assists this season, but I’d also like to get at least three goals because I’ve had chances,” Ruiz said.

As a top-notch and vocal defender, Rivera plays a vital role in San Benito’s quest for an upper-tier finish in one of the most competitive boys soccer divisions in the CCS. Tough, physical and high energy, Rivera knows the team must come together if it wants to stay competitive or beat Soledad, Alisal and Watsonville.

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