Freshman standout Zamaya Rivera, seen here in Hollister's CCS semifinal playoff game against Alvarez, had two goals in a 7-0 win over Stone Ridge Christian Thursday in a CIF NorCal Division IV semifinal. File photo.

After accumulating 14 goals in two CIF NorCal playoff victories, the Hollister High girls soccer team is ready to be challenged. 

The Haybalers are expected to get just that in Saturday’s Division V championship match against Lowell of San Francisco. The opening kick-off is scheduled for 5pm at Andy Hardin Stadium. 

“We’re ready for them [facing a larger school],” said freshman Zamaya Rivera, who had two goals in a 7-0 semifinal win over Stone Ridge Christian of Merced on Thursday. “We want to finish this off more for the seniors. It’s our first year here in NorCals and it’s really exciting. But really, it’s all for our seniors.”

After opening NorCals with a 7-0 win over Hamilton on Tuesday, the top seed Haybalers (14-7-3) won by the identical score against Stone Ridge Christian. After Rivera scored in the 13th and 19th minutes, Jimena Heredia added a goal in the 23rd minute and Elyssa Hernandez scored in the 31st minute to give Hollister a commanding 4-0 lead entering halftime. 

The Balers kept the pressure up in the second half, receiving goals from Sydney Stacy (58th), Lauren Green (78th) and McKenzie Heckman in stoppage time. After back-to-back pulse-pounding victories to win the program’s first Central Coast Section playoff championship last week, Hollister has overwhelmed inferior opponents in Hamilton and Stone Ridge Christian in NorCals. 

However, the Balers should finally receive a stiff challenge befitting this stage. MaxPreps has Lowell (17-3-3), the San Francisco AAA champion, ranked No. 247 in the state and Hollister No. 308. Neither team played a common opponent this season.

What the Balers have going for them is talent, depth and chemistry, and that’s been on full display in a stirring and historic postseason run. Rivera has been dynamite all season, excelling in 1-v-1 situations. She scored two goals but could’ve had more, as she hit the post twice and had a couple of other shots that came close to finding the net. 

Rivera’s second goal came off a laser accurate corner kick from Madison Cousins, who with the exception of the Stone Ridge Christian goalkeeper was the busiest player of the game, running from the opposite end of the field to deliver 12 of the Balers’ 13 corner kicks. 

Cousins’ corner kick landed near the penalty area to Rivera, who bodied the ball in with her chest, highlighting her athleticism. Hollister then dialed up goals from long distance to close the half, as Heredia and Hernandez both scored off impressive shots from beyond 30 yards. 

In between those scores, Kacey Yannone went on the attack, dribbling for 35 yards before delivering a nice ball to Heckman on the right side. Although Heckman’s shot went wide, the sequence was emblematic of the game as Hollister repeatedly spent time in the attacking third and the Knights could offer little resistance. 

The Balers outshot the visitors 31-0—and yes, you’re reading that correctly. Hollister took the opening kick-off and immediately went to work, as Saavedra Allen got free down the left sideline before getting into the 18-yard box and firing off a shot just wide left. 

Allen was dangerous all night making runs down the left side. She assisted on the final goal, a terrific cross that Heckman one-timed in to put an exclamation mark on the victory. Heckman and Trinity Arias are the co-captains of the team and stalwarts in the program. 

Morgen Ortiz has been solid in the back and Karen Alvarado-Castillo quietly gets the job done game in, game out. As she’s done throughout the season, coach Becky Bonner substituted liberally and played nearly the entire roster. 

Hollister has a deep team and as such subs like Kylie Varnes come in and make an impact. Rivera said the extra games the team has got to play in NorCals has only strengthened the players’ bonds. 

“I love all the girls here and we’ve gotten super close,” she said. “We’ve all gotten closer through NorCals because we all want one thing and that’s what we’re here for.”

Jimena Heredia, seen here in earlier action this season, had a goal in the Balers’ 7-0 CIF NorCal win. 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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