The Hollister High girls’ soccer team made a historic run in 2022-23 by going on not just one but two championship crowning achievements in one season.
It’s a feat that not too many programs can say they’ve accomplished.
The Haybalers captured their first ever Central Coast Section Division IV title and also claimed the CIF NorCal D-V title for the first time in the school’s history.
After graduating five starters, the newly rebuilt team is off to a fine start with success against a strong non-league slate and in ultra-competitive league play.
Hollister is off to a 2-1 start in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division standings following a 2-1 victory over Alvarez High, losing a tight tilt at Monterey in a 1-0 defeat and rolling past Watsonville for a 2-0 win.
Hollister features returners Zamaya Rivera, Sydney Stacy and Summer Forrest who each scored one goal in their 4-3 win over Soledad in last year’s CCS D-IV title match.
The midfield is jelling and the offense—led in scoring by Rivera—has a diverse set of weapons. In their victory over the Wildcatz, it was Forrest who scored both goals for the Balers.
Hollister head coach Becky Bonner and the team know that success takes the whole squad contributing in many ways.
“As I stress to my team, soccer is not about one player, but is about what we collectively build as a group,” Bonner said. “The biggest strength of the girls comes from their desire to grow every day and to positively support one another.”
Hollister currently owns a 5-2-2 overall record including a 2-1 win over a strong Aptos team, an 8-0 crushing win against Seaside and a 4-0 rout over San Lorenzo Valley.
The non-league portion of the Balers’ schedule also included a 1-1 draw at Soquel 1-1, a 2-2 tie against Mountain View 2-2 and a 1-0 loss to Valley Christian.
Bonner played soccer for the Balers for four years herself. She moved into coaching and teaching social science.
At Hollister, she led the junior varsity for three years and is now in her 12th season heading the varsity.
Rivera commented on the ticket to success and the mental strength of the team.
“We have to build from the back,” Rivera said. “We’re confident of our season. I think we can win every game, beat or tie every team.”
Against Monterey, the starters in the back were Karen Alvarado-Castillo, Morgen Ortiz, Maddy Cousins and Alyssa Tiopan, while Jazzy Florez also contributed with extensive playing time.
Bonner said the players have been working hard to stay connected and thus have a water-tight defense.
“We play a 4-5-1 formation, so offensively we have one forward,” Bonner said. “This position currently has time split between Sydney Stacy and Kacey Yannone. Between the girls, they do a great job of reading the field and putting immediate pressure on other teams’ defenses.”
Center midfielders play a most crucial role in soccer. Rivera, Lauren Green, Forrest, Jessie Allen and Mia Briano represent there for the Balers.
The outside midfielders must have a multitude of skills and work both offensively and defensively. Kylie Varnes, Jimena Heredia, Krystal Tovar and Prienna Chavez are the primary components of that group.
Bonner noted they need to work hard to help generate the offensive attack, while being quick and well-conditioned to get back to help the team defensively.
The starting goalkeeper is sophomore Itzel Florez. After the Monterey match, Bonner complimented her performance and confidence.
“She is a first year varsity player,” Bonner said. “She had a solid game. Really good communication with the defense. And she came out of the box at the right times.”
Elyssa Hernandez recently departed for El Salvador to try out for the U-17 national team. Bonner has made some lineup adjustments for that and they are working well.
“As a group we always root for one another to reach our highest potential and we are all wishing [Hernandez] the best on this endeavor,” Bonner said.
In the Gabilan Division—the highest tier of the four divisions within the PCAL—every team is solid. Each squad is full of talent and hard workers.
Against Monterey, Hollister had long stretches of great play but a penalty kick call against them produced the sole tally for the Toreadores.
“That was a very well-played game on both sides,” Monterey coach John Licea said. “They put a lot of pressure on us. We had to defend. They have some really good technical players. Their midfield is strong. [Rivera] is very good. [Forrest] did really well and also [Yannone].”
Bonner regrouped with her charges after the contest. They talked about things to work on and how to grow. The shutout win over Watsonville showed they are moving in the right direction.
The Balers continue league play against an improving Rancho San Juan High (8-1-1, 2-0-1) in Hollister on Wednesday at 5:45pm.
Licea said Salinas is perhaps the favorite as it returns a lot of top players from a Cowboys team that finished with a 15-1-2 overall record last season and earned a trip to the CCS D-I playoffs.
To illustrate the strength of the PCAL Gabilan Division, Salinas Hollister, Alisal, Alvarez and Rancho San Juan were all in the CCS playoffs last season.
Hollister won a section title and RSJ was a D-III finalist.
“Our league is solid,” Bonner said. “All the teams are good. You have to respect every team. We need to come ready every game.”
Hollister will host Alisal on Friday at 6:45pm.