The Hollister High girls soccer team was more than ready to make another appearance in the Central Coast Section championship game after losing to Christopher High in the Division III finals just two years ago.
The No. 5 seed Haybalers returned to the big stage but this time they were more determined than ever to have a different type of outcome and bring home the first section title in the program’s history. Especially for senior McKenzie Heckman who knew it was now or never.
“This game meant so much to me and my team, to be able to make school history especially in my senior year feels amazing,” she said.
It took a pair of overtime periods but Heckman and her teammates got it done for Hollister in a 4-3 overtime victory over No. 2 Soledad in the D-IV final at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas on Feb. 25.
Hollister coach Becky Bonner was filled with emotion watching her team celebrate in the middle of the field after they were able to etch themselves in the history books.
“I am so proud of this team, they worked so hard all season long and to see us get the results we’ve been working towards means the world,” she said.
With the win, the Haybalers qualified for the CIF NorCal playoffs and earned the top seed in the D-V bracket. They will host No. 8 Hamilton High (15-2-2) on Tuesday at 5pm.
Hollister struck first in the early minutes of the Soledad game with a goal by Sydney Stacy that gave them a 1-0 lead in the first half.
The Balers continued to push and freshman Zamaya Rivera extended the lead late just before the break with a goal that gave them a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
“We definitely felt prepared for this game, facing tough competition all season really got us ready to face any team we get in the playoffs,” Heckman said.
Hollister looked in control of the game going into the break but it was a tale of two halves.
Soledad standout Sophia Martel scored the first of her three goals after she capitalized on a free kick early in the second half, cutting the deficit at 2-1.
Late in the second half, Martel broke to the middle of the field and tied the game at 2-all.
“Soledad really adjusted well to us in the second half and was able to get some really good shots, (Martel) is a special player,” Bonner said.
After a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation, both teams headed for overtime in search of the championship. Heckman said she felt confident going into the extra periods.
“We were excited, it was a great game and we felt confident going into it knowing that we can get it done,” Heckman said.
Early in the first minutes of overtime, Hollister broke the tie with a goal by Trinity Arias to get a 3-2 lead. They extended the lead to 4-2 with another goal in the second half of overtime by Summer Forrest.
Soledad was able to cut the deficit to one goal just minutes later with a third goal by Martel but it wasn’t enough for an impressive comeback as the Balers came out with the 4-3 victory.
Hamilton is traveling 230 miles south from Hamilton City–about two hours north of Sacramento–to Hollister to play in the NorCal D-V quarterfinals.
The Braves placed second in the Mid Valley League of the CIF Northern Section and recently lost to Winters High in the Northern Section Division III semifinals on Feb. 21.
With a rain storm brewing for Tuesday and little time to prepare, Heckman acknowledges it’s going to be a tough game but is confident the Balers will find a way to come out on top.
“Any team we end up facing is going to give us a hard time,” Heckman said. “We really only have one day to prepare for the game plus the rain.. so it’s going to be tough but I believe in our team.”