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Thriving in numbers, Hollister High field hockey team wants more

The Hollister High field hockey team hopes there will be a lot of post-goal celebrations like this one this season. The Haybalers are fielding another quality team this year. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

After earning a berth in the Central Coast Section playoffs last year, the Hollister High field hockey team wants more. 

“We want first in league and we want that bye in the (first round of the) playoffs,” said Molly Macierz Svihus, who is in her seventh season as the Hollister coach. “The seniors went last year and they know what it’s all about. They remember that experience and they’re ready for more.”

No matter what happens this season from a won-loss standpoint, the Hollister program is thriving from a participation standout. There are 32 girls on the varsity roster and a record 41 on the junior varsity team. Having that many girls on both squads lends itself to an atmosphere that has “so much excitement that it’s contagious,” Svihus said. 

Former players are also returning to support the program. Kourtney Carmichael, who was a senior captain in Svihus’ first season, has taken over as coach of the JV team. The Haybalers defeated Monta Vista-Cupertino 5-0 on Aug. 31 to earn their first win of the season.

It was just what the doctor ordered after they opened the year with two losses, both coming by a single goal to quality teams in Christopher High and Prospect High. Four-year varsity standout McKenzie Heckman scored two goals against Monta Vista and Teresa Planas, Nicole Maduena and Chelsie Kutz had one goal each.

Hollister did most of its damage in the final five minutes of the second quarter. Planas scored the first goal of the game on a nifty backhand shot, and Heckman and Izel Prieto started a barrage of Balers’ shots as each had shots that hit the side post.

Maduena connected with 1 minute, 40 seconds left until halftime and 42 seconds later Heckman capped the mini uprising by scoring on a rebound after Prieto’s shot bounced off the goalie’s pads. Hollister’s dominance was so complete that goalie Callie Marci was relaxing in the back end of the cage as her teammates ran to her in the sport’s run to the goalie postgame tradition. 

“Callie has a really good mentality for the game and is a blast to have on the team,” Svihus said. “She’s a sophomore and we’ve been able to build her up.”

Svihus was able to go deep into her roster and get most of the players into the contest because of the team’s dominant possession time. 

“The second half, we were going to use that time to learn more about our players and get the seniors more playing time,” Svihus said.

Heckman, Maduena, Aaliyah Gaytan and Ruby Olmos are the four captains and have been instrumental in the team’s cohesiveness. It’s for those reasons why Svihus said she’s having the most fun she’s ever had as the program’s coach. 

“I’ve seen in the past when we’ve had a big group of seniors, they can play as individuals sometimes,” she said. “But this group is playing together. The chemistry, how they work together, pass together, it’s all there. Our four captains have been phenomenal.”

Sydney Stacy was a key factor why Hollister unleashed an offensive explosion late in the first half. The sophomore forward used her speed, stick-handling and body to shield the ball away from defenders, helping the team keep possession. 

“Sydney stood out and was able to move the ball really well,” Svihus said. “She was able to run with the ball, make the turns and cut to the cage.”

Planas has been pivotal as a midfielder, oftentimes connecting the team as it transitions from defense to offense or vice versa. 

“Teresa plays the whole field and she’s able to run strong with the ball,” Svihus said. “She developed those skills from growing up in Spain and she shined today.”

Morgen Ortiz epitomized the team’s fierce determination on one sequence in the fourth quarter, regaining possession after losing it to a Monta Vista player. It’s that type of focus and grit that Svihus loves to see out of the team.

“After what happened in the first two games, the girls were ready for Monta Vista,” she said. “They weren’t going to let that happen again, losing by one goal.”

Svihus said she talks frequently with Heckman and Maduena, as the duo helps the coaching staff to bring things into focus.

“They’re really our eyes and ears on the field and help me come up with a practice plan with what they bring,” Svihus said. “And Aaliyah and Ruby are mentally tough players always stepping to the ball. They’re a little more defense minded, but they still like to shoot on goal, too.”

After finishing in third place in the Pacific Coast League’s Gabilan Division, Hollister is looking to win its first league championship. 

“They’ve put in the time and effort,” Svihus said. “Now it’s just about doing it each game, each play, each ball, and fighting for everything.”

Hollister High junior Teresa Planas has been a stalwart midfielder ever since she arrived. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Aliyah Gaytan follows through on a pass downfield in earlier action this season. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Izel Prieto launches a shot in the team’s season-opener vs. Christopher on Aug. 25. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at elee@weeklys.com