GIRLS SOCCER: Mustangs earn win, grab control of first place

Gilroy's Alexandria Maldonado tracks down a long pass as the

Taylor Slattery scored two goals, Katelyn Nebesnick added a
third on a well-placed free kick, and the Gilroy Mustangs took sole
control of the Tri-County Athletic League with a 3-0 defeat of the
San Benito Lady Balers on Wednesday in Hollister.
HOLLISTER – For at least the first few minutes of Wednesday’s Tri-County Athletic League showdown between San Benito and Gilroy, a match between the last two remaining undefeated teams in the TCAL, it appeared Hollister’s soft and muddy field may just even the playing field, or at least keep a speedy Mustangs team from turning it into a track meet.

“We started well and we did everything we practiced and everything we talked about,” San Benito head coach Ben Alvarez said. “It was working very well.”

It didn’t take long for Gilroy to become acclimated, though.

Taylor Slattery and Savannah Silacci both took turns with strong shots on net midway through the first half, changing the momentum in the game, then teamed up to put the Mustangs in front at the 35th minute.

Gilroy never looked back en route to a 3-0 victory.

“We knew it was gonna be muddy, so we knew we had to work on touch,” said Gilroy head coach Jose Hernandez.

“Here it was great. It was great because we were able to control the ball and that’s at the heart of what we do as a program.”

Hernandez’s Mustangs now own the best record in the TCAL at 6-0, having outscored six league opponents by an impressive 28-1 margin.

The Lady Balers, who had won six straight games entering the contest and had outscored their TCAL opponents by an 18-0 margin, fall to 5-1 in the TCAL.

Still, the two teams sit rather comfortably ahead of both Salinas and Alisal, which are tied for third place at 3-2-1. San Benito and Gilroy will meet again on Feb. 19 — the regular-season finale for both teams.

“I thought we allowed a lot of balls to bounce and we lost our structure. But that’s what we have another half-season to work on,” Hernandez said. “We’ll just keep working.”

Tuesday’s rainfall left Hollister’s soccer field rather soft, and players of both teams were messy and muddy after just a few short minutes of play. The slow field didn’t limit the scoring chances for both teams early on, however.

San Benito’s Daniela Ocampo sent a cross pass from the right side that nearly bounced into the far side of the goal — one of the few high-percentage scoring chances the Lady Balers had in the game — while Slattery and Silacci each exchanged short-range shots on net at the other end.

The Lady Baler attack took a hit when leading scorer Hannah Cobb went down with an apparent knee injury at the 29th minute. Alvarez said Cobb and a Gilroy player were vying for the ball, and the junior mid may have twisted her knee on the play. She did not return.

“After the Hannah incident, it became a mental game,” Alvarez said. “They went down on their play level and I really think that had a lot to do with it.”

Six minutes later, after the muddy ball sliced off of San Benito keeper Elizabeth Miller’s foot, Silacci corralled the short kick just outside the box and lofted a shot on net that banged off the right post and right to Slattery from 10 yards out. The freshman forward then took advantage of the sudden confusion when she found the back of the net for an easy goal.

The 1-0 score held until halftime when Gilroy’s Katelyn Nebesnick made it a two-goal game just five minutes into the second half.

Following a tripping call on San Benito, the junior midfielder drilled a free kick from 25 yards out on the right side. Aiming for the top corner, the perfectly-placed ball sailed just over the reach of Miller and bounced off the far post and into the net.

San Benito had nine shots on net, compared to Gilroy’s 16.

At the 59th minute, off a Yamasaki throw-in from the corner, the Mustangs immediately cleared the ball out of the zone to Slattery, who then sprinted some 50 yards down field and pulled away from San Benito’s defense before punching in a breakaway goal to the right side of the net.

San Benito had its best chance to score late in the game when Karly Leon dribbled upfield with a defender on her back and chipped a shot over Gilroy’s approaching goalie. But the lob shot bounced off the right post.

Gilroy will host North Salinas on Friday at 5 p.m.

More to come

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