Several teams head to playoffs, others done for season
The winter sports seasons all came to a close this week at San
Benito High School.
For some teams, it was time to start thinking about next year.
For others, it was time to focus on the playoffs.
Several teams head to playoffs, others done for season

The winter sports seasons all came to a close this week at San Benito High School.

For some teams, it was time to start thinking about next year. For others, it was time to focus on the playoffs.

One of those playoff-bound teams was the Baler girls’ soccer team, which made history this year by winning the school’s first-ever league title in girls’ soccer – a sport that was first launched at the school in 1995.

“As a team, our players had a goal to win league. And they said that if they win that the next goal would be to win CCS,” Baler coach Mike Schurig said on Tuesday night. “I guess you could say that’s one down and one to go for the season.”

On Wednesday night after press time, the No. 12 seeded Balers began their quest to win the coveted CCS title when they took on No. 6 seed Leigh High School at home in Hollister. Although Leigh was the higher seed, the Balers got the luxury of having home-field advantage as a result of their winning a league title. But even with that distinct advantage, beating Leigh was not going to be an easy task. During the regular season, Leigh’s defense allowed just nine goals.

While Leigh was known for its defense, the Balers next game (if they won on Wednesday night) would be against No. 4 ranked offensive powerhouse Monte Vista High School on Saturday (at a site to be determined after our press time).

“Monte Vista is a tough team, but if we get past Leigh we’ll definitely be energized for that game,” Schurig said. “And if you get the right kicks at the net anything can happen.”

The girls’ varsity soccer team finished the season with an overall record of 13-5-2 and went 8-3-1 in league. Schurig credits his team’s success this year with its balanced play and depth on the bench.

While the Balers girls’ soccer team has already had a playoff game, the wrestling team (see related story) will be gunning for a league title tomorrow at Gilroy High School.

Based on the Baler performances in that event, it will determine exactly how many wrestlers will qualify for the section meet, which gets under way Feb. 23. Only the top four wrestlers in the league meet advance to the section meet.

“We’re hoping to qualify all 14 wrestlers to CCS,” Baler coach Matt Olejnik said.

As it stands now, the Balers are ranked third in the section behind Gilroy, which is vying for its fifth CCS title in a row, and No. 2 ranked Los Gatos.

The only other Baler team with any chance of making the postseason this winter season was the school’s girl’s varsity basketball team – although that chance was slimmest of all.

On Thursday night after press time, the fifth-place Balers were in a must-win situation at home against first-place North Salinas – a team that was 20-4 at the time and 11-0 in league.

The Balers went into that contest with a record of 8-14 overall and 5-6 in league. Although the record was anything but stellar, an upset win against the Vikings would have moved the Balers to .500 or 6-6 in league – the automatic qualifying number for making a trip to the playoffs.

“It’s coming down to the last game,” Baler coach Al Rowe said on Wednesday. “If we win this, we go to CCS. I have all the confidence in us, but it’s going to be hard. They’re an undefeated team [in league]. No matter what happens, it was a good season overall, and I think we’ll get better and more established in the coming years.”

The two Baler teams that didn’t make the postseason this year were the boys’ soccer and basketball teams.

This season the boys’ varsity soccer team finished in sixth place in league and struggled with an overall record of 4-12-2 and a league mark of 3-8-1.

“We just weren’t consistent this year,” said third-year coach Juan Martinez. “We messed up on scoring a lot of goals and our defenders kept making mistakes.”

Another problem that spelled disaster early on was the lack of players that came out to try out for the team. In a school of some 2,600 students, Martinez pointed out that he was only able to get 45 kids to try out.

“The girls had 60 or 70 to chose from for the JV and varsity team,” Martinez said. “I had only 45 for JV and varsity. That is a big difference.”

Martinez also blamed the difficult season on team chemistry and his players lack of a willingness to compete hard day in and day out and during practice.

Another thing that hurt the Balers early on this season was when the team’s top goalie, Daniel Lozano, became academically ineligible to compete after just two regular season games.

“He was a great goalie – the key of my team,” Martinez said.

Having to forge ahead without Lozano, forced Martinez to move the team’s star forward Eddie Trujillo into the goalie position. Prior to the move, Trujillo, with his explosive speed up front, had scored five goals in just two games.

“If Lozano was in there it would have been a another story this year,” Martinez said.

While the boys’ soccer team struggled from the get-go, the Baler boys’ basketball team was in contention for the playoffs right up until the final week of action.

It wasn’t until the closing week when the Balers suffered losses against Alisal at home and North Salinas on the road that their playoff hopes came to a screeching halt – marking the first time in the last decade that the Balers would be absent from the CCS playoffs.

“We just got beat in some close ones in the end,” Baler coach John Becerra said. “We were right there. Things could have gone either way, but that’s just the way things go sometimes. I’m proud of the way we played all year though.”

The Balers will lose five seniors to graduation, but with some solid players coming up, Becerra believes his squad could be better in 2008.

“We’ll be about the same or a little bit better,” he said. “I think what we most need is more offensive firepower. Next year, the returning players will have had one more year of experience, which should make them more calm on the court, and make them better at scoring inside.”

Becerra went on to say that his team never gave up and “battled hard every single game.”

“You can say the whole season came down to one lay-up against Alisal that rolled out. If it went in, it changes our whole philosophy and the season. We were just that close.”

John Bagley can be reached at [email protected].

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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