The Hollister High field hockey team achieved history this season, winning a league championship for the first time in its eighth year as a program.
The Haybalers finished 11-5 after a 5-1 loss to Christopher High on Nov. 2 in the second round of the Central Coast Section playoffs. Hollister earned the postseason berth after going undefeated to win the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Gabilan Division title.
All five of Hollister’s losses came to teams that made the CCS playoff quarterfinal round or beyond: Christopher twice, Gilroy, Los Altos and Prospect.
“I’m really proud of the team ending up as league champions for the first time in school history,” Balers senior Nicole Maduena said. “We always wanted to leave a mark here and we were able to do that.”
The midfielder/forward was recently named the PCAL Offensive Player of the Year and knew before the season started something special was brewing.
“Even from the beginning, I felt like we could have a really strong season,” she said. “We’ve been getting stronger and stronger the last couple of years and this season I felt like we would be at our best.”
Maduena was joined on the Gabilan Division First Team by McKenzie Heckman, Teresa Planas and Laila Rueda. Chelsie Kutz, Callie Marci, Ariana Rivera and Aliyah Gaytan made the Second Team, while Ruby Olmos earned the sportsmanship award.
All of the awardees played key roles throughout the season. Maduena said the team’s improved cohesiveness led to success.
“Playing with all these girls since freshman year has been great,” she said. “Each year we started connecting better on and off the field and so I knew this season would be our strongest one because we came together and got better.”
Even though Hollister couldn’t keep up with Christopher in the CCS playoff match, Maduena said the team felt accomplished after everything that had transpired this season.
“The postgame huddle was very emotional knowing it was our last game together,” she said. “It was sad but a good feeling knowing we had a good season and that we were proud of each other that we played strong through every minute no matter the outcome of the game.”
Piper Pierson scored the lone Hollister goal from the edge of the left circle two minutes into the second quarter, making it 1-1. The score would stay that way until the final quarter, when Christopher connected four times in a span of seven minutes to win going away.
Izel Prieto, Kyla Hignel, Heckman and Maduena were some of the more active players for the Balers. Maduena said she and Heckman worked well together, and the team coalesced from the beginning of the season.
“I felt like the girls were more like a close family this year,” Maduena said. “We connected and bonded a lot, and we were a stronger team because of that.”
The Hollister roster is filled with high-achieving student-athletes, led by Maggie Ortiz’s remarkable 4.83 GPA for the fall semester. Maduena, who excelled in the classroom as well with a 4.1 GPA, marveled at Ortiz’s achievement.
Maduena took pride in her ability to distribute the ball and play help defense. She had a great synergy with Heckman in the midfield and said the team’s 1-0 win over Salinas in their second of two matchups was the highlight of their season.
“That was a really good game and I’ll always remember that because of how competitive it was,” said Maduena, who assisted on Rueda’s game-winning goal. “It was a tough game, but we came out on top.”
Though Maduena’s main role was to facilitate and play defense, she did erupt for five goals in the Balers’ 14-0 blowout win over North Salinas on Oct. 24.
“That was Senior Night and I really wanted to give it my all,” she said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]