Two years ago, the Hollister High girls soccer team was outmatched against an uber-talented Christopher High squad in the Central Coast Section Division III championship match.
That won’t be the case Saturday when the No. 5 seed Haybalers (11-7-3) play No. 2 Soledad (15-5-1) for the Division IV title 1:30pm at Rabobank Stadium. However, Hollister knows it still has to play its best to beat Soledad, which finished third in the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Mission Division.
The Balers, meanwhile, took second in the Gabilan Division, which like the Mission is a B league for girls soccer. McKenzie Heckman, a senior right wing, said mental toughness will be a key factor in the championship match.
“We need to stay composed and play the way we know how to play,” said Heckman, who had a hat trick in a 10-0 win over Thomas More in the quarterfinals last Saturday. “Playing strong and staying composed are the main things.”
In edging Alvarez 2-1 in the semifinals Wednesday, Hollister not only broke the tiebreaker between the teams this season, but also turned the tables on a Eagles squad that beat the Balers 5-3 in the section playoffs last year.
“It was pretty intense because we both know each other’s playing style,” Heckman said.
Sydney Stacy scored off a corner kick in the opening five minutes before Alvarez equalized. Then, around the 75-minute mark, Saavedra Allen scored the game-winner.
“Sydney’s goal set us off on a really good pace and got us going early on,” Heckman said. “And Saavedra’s goal got us through and was much needed.”
The Balers thwarted off a hard-charging Alvarez team in the final 15 minutes.
“We had to be careful, play smart and not play messy,” Heckman said. “It was just a matter of being able to calm down, keep possession, defend and keep attacking. I think we did a good job of balancing all those things out.”
Heckman has been a stalwart on the varsity team since her freshman year. She’s one of the more physical players in the league and wins a lot of 50-50 balls as a result of her sheer determination and toughness.
Fellow senior Trinity Arias is also a four-year varsity player and excels in creating opportunities in the middle along with freshman sensation Zamaya Rivera.
“It’s been great playing with both of them and Zamaya is really good at getting the ball up the field,” Heckman said.
Stacy and Summer Forrest are fast up top, can control the ball well and are always ready when the ball gets on their feet, Heckman said. “Our whole team has been great. We work well together and play well off each other.”
Heckman said Ryen Ortiz and Madison Cousins have spearheaded the back line and the team’s overall defense has improved as the season has progressed.
“We’ve been working on a lot of defensive movement and you can tell it’s developed over the season,” she said.
The team’s last line of defense, Shaelyn Tamez and Gisele Santillan, have been solid goalkeepers. They usually rotate halves and Heckman said the duo give the players confidence knowing they’ll make the necessary stops to keep the team in the game.
Hollister knows it has a golden opportunity to win a section title.
“We’re all definitely super pumped and we all want it really bad,” Heckman said. “This is the best shot we’ve had in at least the four years I’ve been here so we’re all ready to get out there to try to win a CCS championship.”