Lady ‘Balers find touch, ground Eagles

San Benito's Taryn Lester (8) competes for a ball Wednesday against Everett Alvarez.

San Benito cruises past Everett Alvarez 5-1 Wednesday in

The San Benito High girls soccer team may not play on turf in Hollister, but they’re certainly finding their footing on the fast, fake grass.

And, really, not a moment too soon.

With the race for the Tri-County Athletic League heating up, the Lady ‘Balers picked up an easy and much-needed 5-1 victory Wednesday at Everett Alvarez in Salinas, exhibiting a strong passing game as well as a high output that San Benito head coach Ben Alvarez is hoping will propel his team through an upcoming and difficult three-game stretch.

On Friday, the Lady ‘Balers will host Salinas, while their following two games will be played at Gilroy (Jan. 21) then at Notre Dame (Jan. 26).

“We need to bring the points up because we need to go past Salinas on the points,” Alvarez said.

The Cowboys (3-2) lost on Wednesday at home to Gilroy, 2-0.

“Winning this game helped our ranking because last game didn’t,” added Sophie Coelho, commenting on last week’s 2-2 tie to North Salinas. “We knew we had to win this game to get back up.”

And Coelho’s two-goal, three-assist effort certainly raised San Benito’s standing in the TCAL, as the Lady ‘Balers improve to 2-0-2, 10-1-3 overall.

Teammate Hannah Cobb added a pair of scores as well in the victory, pocketing No. 16 and No. 17 on the year, while Daniela Ocampo tacked on a fifth goal for San Benito.

The Lady ‘Balers demonstrated a two-touch passing game Wednesday that opened up the field and made San Benito’s five-goal offensive onslaught – all of which was scored in the first half – seem effortless.

“We’re minimizing the touches. Anything more than two touches and you should probably be releasing that ball, especially on fields like this,” Alvarez said. “We’ve got the speed to get there, so I’m very happy with the passing.”

Coelho scored the game’s first goal off an assist from Yaira Lizarraga, then set up Cobb in the 16th minute for a 2-0 lead.

Eagle Jackie Shearn cut San Benito’s lead in half when she scored unassisted two minutes later, but the Lady ‘Balers reclaimed their two-goal cushion in the 21st minute when Coelho scored on a breakaway goal.

Coelho’s strong performance continued in the 23rd minute when she dished off to Ocampo on the right side for a score, then set up a wide-open Cobb on the right side in the 36th minute to send San Benito to the break up 5-1.

“I think we do a lot better on turf than we do on grass,” Coelho said. “[The two-touch passing] conserved our energy. We were doing the short stuff and working our way up and it helped that we knew how to play on turf.”

Coelho and teammate Sara Yamasaki acted almost as point guards for the Lady ‘Balers Wednesday, distributing the ball to where Alvarez wasn’t and almost single-handedly controlling the tempo of the match.

San Benito’s latest practice technique – the team practices inside the gymnasium in order to replicate the fast-paced surface they’ll see on the turf fields – is clearly paying off.

“This is why we do it,” Alvarez said. “When we’re actually inside the gym, the reaction time is so much faster … We know the bounce, we know it’s gonna take off on us. I’m very happy with it.”

San Benito will host Salinas Friday at 3:30 p.m.

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