Balers striker Jonathan Garcia has three hat tricks in the last two seasons.

With eight goals in nine matches entering this week’s play, Jonathan Garcia has already surpassed his output from last season. Although Garcia has made improvements in his game from a physical standpoint, the San Benito High School senior striker said a renewed mindset has boosted his play.

“I feel way more motivated this time around,” he said. “When it’s time to play, I’m completely focused. It’s just a different feeling this year.”

The 5-foot-11, 155-pound Garcia had a hat trick—the third of his San Benito career—in a 4-2 win over North Monterey County on Jan. 5. On all three goals, Garcia showed why he’s turned into one of the most lethal strikers in the ultra competitive Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division.

Garcia relied on his nose for the ball and his ability to find open spots in the team’s defense to outscore North Monterey County all by himself. Luis Ayala assisted on two of Garcia’s goals and Manuel Ceja the other. On the second goal, Garcia received a through ball before taking a couple of dribbles and sending a chip shot over the NMC goalkeeper.

Balers coach Marco Orozco isn’t surprised with Garcia’s production.

“Jonathan doesn’t give up, he fights for ever single ball and is always trying to create options for himself,” Orozco said. “He knows how to move between players and defenders and knows how to get away. He’s also fast and strong, and that allows him to create space for himself.”

Garcia added that he’s seeing the field better and finishing when presented with the opportunity.

“If I’m open, I have the mindset to finish every shot,” he said.

San Benito has displayed a chemistry befitting of its record. The Balers are unselfish with the ball, connecting on the field and believing in each other.

“This is pretty much the same team we had last year, and we’re just building upon it,” Garcia said. “We know each other and that’s made a big difference in our play.”

Garcia said Orozco has done a nice job of motivating the players and keeping things organized.

“Coach Orozco keeps us together when it comes down to practicing,” Garcia said. “He makes sure we’re careful so we can build ourselves up as the season goes along.”

Although the team is off to a strong start, Garcia knows the ultimate test starts this week with games against league stalwarts Alisal and Watsonville. The MBL’s top division has perennial Central Coast Section powers in Alisal, Alvarez, Watsonville and Pajaro Valley, making it the top league in the section along with the West Catholic League.

“In reality, this week is our first real test because it’s Alisal and Pajaro Valley,” Garcia said. “This will show us how we’ll do this season.”

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