The Hollister High girls soccer team celebrates after beating Lowell High of San Francisco 1-0 in the CIF NorCal Division V championship match on March 4. The victory came a week after the Balers won a CCS title. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Once the Hollister High girls soccer team got going, there was no stopping them. 

The top seed Haybalers capped a remarkable season with a 1-0 win over No. 2 seed Lowell of San Francisco in the CIF NorCal Division V playoff championship match on March 4. The victory came exactly seven days after a riveting 4-3 overtime win over Soledad to win the program’s first Central Coast Section championship. 

The Hollister (16-7-3) players and coaches were visibly joyous afterward, and for good reason. They were one of just five girls teams in Northern California to end their season with a championship. More than victory itself, Haybalers coach Becky Bonner said she cherished this year’s group of players and just being able to spend time with them daily. 

“Before the game we talked with the girls and I had let them know this has been one of my favorite groups I’ve coached in 15 years,” Bonner said. “And part of the reason being it’s a team where they play for each other, they’re coachable, we can work hard in practice and yet they can have a good time and still be on track with what we’re doing. And the best part is whether someone is playing on the field or they’re sitting on the bench, they have each other’s back. You don’t always have that dynamic.”

After a pair of 7-0 wins en route to the NorCal final, Hollister finally received resistance from a Lowell team that was solid but not quite the Balers’ caliber. Hollister outshot Lowell 7-2—including 4-0 in the second half—and had a decisive 7-3 advantage in corner kicks. 

The only time the Cardinals gave the Balers any real problems was in the first 20 minutes of play, when Bonner admitted the team was nervous. But once the Balers settled down, they controlled the possession, especially in a dominant second half. 

The only goal of the match came from—you guessed it—Zamaya Rivera, the freshman sensation who has a knack for scoring and did it when the stakes were highest. Fellow freshman Madison Cousins delivered a corner kick into the penalty area where it got deflected to the top of the 18-yard box. 

Rivera tracked the ball down before delivering a beautiful turnaround shot that landed under the crossbar in the 52nd minute. It was vintage Balers, who were dangerous on set pieces in large part to Cousins’ laser-accurate kicks to the penalty area. 

Once again, Rivera, McKenzie Heckman and Sydney Stacy created prime scoring opportunities. Rivera is always dangerous going 1-v-1, Stacy gets out in space with her speed and Heckman is opportunistic with the ball and anticipating where it’s going. 

Trinity Arias and Morgen Ortiz were seemingly around the ball constantly and making plays, as was freshman defender Karen Alvarado-Castillo. The senior goalkeeper combo of Gisele Santillan and Shaelyn Tamez locked it down, with Santillan making a nice save on Lowell’s best scoring chance midway through the first half. 

Contributions were made from players all over the field and the effort once again was top notch. Bonner appreciated the resiliency of this group, noting the multiple injuries they dealt with midway through the season and the flu which seemingly “took out half our team.” 

“But no matter what happened, they came out everyday and played the entire game,” Bonner said. “I’ve never once had a game with them where I’ve looked at them and thought, ‘Man, we didn’t give it everything we had.’ And I think that’s a huge reason why they’re here. They’re selfless players and they want to do well collectively for the group. To see a group that’s not only talented but also so supportive of each other, it’s almost more rewarding seeing how successful they’ve been.”

While the team will cherish the CCS and NorCal titles, next season looks rosy as well. With a whopping eight freshmen on the team—including starters Rivera, Cousins, Alvarado-Castillo, Jesseira Allen, Summer Forrest and Elyssa Hernandez—to go along with sophomore starters Stacy and Ortiz, Hollister seems primed for another special season or two. 

Bonner was still processing the gravity of the moment after the trophy presentation. 

“The personalities on this team, their work ethic, it’s been a joy,” she said.

Zamaya Rivera unleashes a free kick during Hollister’s 1-0 win over Lowell in the CIF NorCal D-V championship match.
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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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