In 2005, the Gavilan College women’s soccer team finished 0-17, scoring one goal while allowing 100.
No, that’s not a typo. Not surprisingly, the program went under and into a prolonged dormant period before it was announced earlier this year that women’s soccer was returning for the upcoming 2023 fall season.
Gavilan is turning to an alumnus in Javier Alejo to resurrect the program. Alejo, 27, played on the men’s team after graduating from Gilroy High in 2014. That winter, Alejo started coaching as an assistant under Armando Padilla at GHS, and he’s added club coaching at Infinity Sports since.
Gavilan is also bringing back the men’s soccer program, which will be coached by Josue Salgado (look for a story in a future edition of this newspaper). When Alejo was notified Gavilan was bringing women’s soccer back into the fold, he was elated.
“It’s great for the community and women in general,” he said. “It feels amazing getting this opportunity and given a chance to resurrect this program.”
Though excited, Alejo acknowledges he faces a monumental challenge. Recruiting athletes to Gavilan has been notoriously difficult in all sports, and it takes an exceptional coach to make their team consistent. Alejo said he’s been hard at work just trying to get the word out to the community that Gavilan has women’s soccer back in the fold.
“It’s a bit more challenging because there was quite a layoff so at least there are a couple of generations of people here not knowing there ever was a women’s soccer program at Gavilan,” he said. “Our message is we’re giving women an opportunity not just in playing soccer, but we’re giving them an opportunity to grow in their academics and as a person overall. It’s something to look forward to in the years to come, but it’s definitely been a challenge [getting the numbers up].”
Alejo knows since the program has been gone for nearly two decades, fielding a team, building a roster and maintaining a strong mindset for Year One will be instrumental for the future.
“We would like to compete, we’re not just going to be out there to be out there,” he said. “Hopefully the girls fight hard and we keep getting more and more numbers and next year hopefully we’re having a conversation again and looking 10 times better. I’m here for the long run and we’ll see how this whole process becomes.”
After attending Gavilan, Alejo transferred to UC Irvine where he earned a degree in Sociology. He then earned his M.A. in teaching at San Jose State. The couple of years he spent in Irvine was the only time since the 2014-2015 season in which Alejo wasn’t assisting Padilla at GHS.
“Armando Padilla gave me a great opportunity and I’m grateful for that because it helped me get to the position I’m in now,” Alejo said.
There’s a nice side note to the return of the Gavilan men’s and women’s soccer programs. Alejo and Salgado happen to be close friends whose families have known each other before the two were born.
“Our parents always went to church and I think that’s how they met each other,” said Alejo, who was teammates with Salgado in club during high school and also for a year at Gavilan. “We’re just happy to be here and really do want these programs to be successful. We put a lot of time into this and we’re both optimists and just want to establish something that will set us up for success in the years to come.”