Hollister High senior center back Hugo Catalan, seen here heading a ball against Christopher in their non-league match in early December, has been instrumental for the Haybalers playing every single minute this season. File photo.

It’s now or never for the Hollister High boys soccer team. 

After losing their league opener to Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division favorite Alisal High 3-1 on Jan. 5, the Haybalers know they have to start racking up points against other teams in the division if they want to contend for a top-three finish in the standings. 

A seven-team Gabilan Division means there are only 12 league matches, a sprint to the finish. And with its Jan. 9 game against Salinas having been postponed due to the weather, Hollister will play 11 matches over a 29-day stretch starting Jan. 11 against North Salinas.

“The players are in the mindset that these next couple of games are going to be crucial,” Haybalers coach Marco Orozco said. “They know beating some of these teams is a must.”

Hollister entered the week at 4-2-2 overall and 0-1-0 in league. Even though the Balers lost to Alisal, the defeat showed them what they need to improve on going forward. 

“We made a couple of bad passes on defense and they capitalized obviously,” Orozco said. “So we need to cut down on our mistakes, but I would really like for them to continue playing their game, be aggressive and try to open the field because we have really good wingers that can support the attack. They can play with the ball on their feet, pass the ball accurately, play aggressively and score every chance we get.”

The wingers include Abraham Nunez, Sergio Ramirez, Francisco Zavala, Luis Gonzalo Garcia and Leandro Herrera. Ramirez has started every game and plays a vital role with his ability to deliver crosses inside the 18-yard box, leading to scoring opportunities. 

Forward Emiliano Castro has scored key goals throughout the season and is always dangerous on the attack. 

“Emiliano is a great athlete and a really good striker,” Orozco said. “He can control and shield the ball, distribute and put us in position to score. He can score from outside the box, too.”

Center back Adan Serrato-San Ramon has been consistent, is precise with the ball and good in the air. Unfortunately, Serrato-San Ramon and Garcia got injured in the Alisal match and Orozco hopes the two can return soon. Hugo Catalan, a senior center back, has been rock solid and has played every single minute this season. 

Bryan Navarrete has been strong at goalkeeper and continues to improve. 

“Bryan knows it’s his last year so he’s giving it his all,” Orozco said. “He’s made some important saves on goal for us.”

Orozco noted the play of top substitute Juan Carlos Garcia, a junior center midfielder who usually comes in around the 15-20 minute mark and finishes the game. 

“When Juan Carlos goes in, he’s on fire, he’s on it,” Orozco said. “He’s challenging every ball, fighting for every ball and trying to distribute well.”

Orozco hosted a team dinner at his home on Jan. 6, building team chemistry and giving the players an opportunity to refresh mentally. 

“I just needed the players to relax, enjoy themselves a little bit and forget about the game because this league is tough,” Orozco said. “We’re going to have a lot of games coming up so I’ve told them to enjoy the challenge because they may not play this high quality soccer again after they leave here. But for that night, it was all about enjoying each other off the field.”

Hollister striker Emiliano Castro has scored key goals throughout the season. File photo.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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