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December 9, 2023

Gilroy girls equipped with mix of newcomers and veteran leadership

The Gilroy High girls varsity soccer team has won five straight Tri-County Athletic League championships with a combined league record of 51-2-7. The Mustangs last loss in league came in the season finale of 2008.

Let that soak in.

Under head coach Jose Hernandez, who is entering his eighth season making him the longest tenured coach in the TCAL, the Mustangs have a combined 63 regular season victories – a 12.6 average – during that five year span, including 14 victories in each of the last two seasons. In those two years, the Mustangs have had enjoyed that success with a total of seven seniors.

With all of two seniors on this season’s 14-player roster, mentioning that he once again has a young team, is almost too obvious.

“When isn’t it (a young team)?” Hernandez quipped Wednesday.

It’s actually a 50-50 split between returners and newcomers, but of the seven returns only one is a senior – defender Monique Barragan, a two-time TCAL all-league selection, one of three captains. The other two players who will share the captaincy are speedy juniors Taylor Slattery and Cynthia Sanchez, a midfield and forward duo that combined for 35 goals last season. 

Slattery, who contributed 20 scores to that number, already has two first-team all-league selections and a league Most Valuable Player award to her name. 

Sanchez, also a two-time first-team honoree and last season’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player, scored three times in the Mustangs’ season-opening 7-0 win at Christopher High on Monday. Slattery (2), Connie Contreras (1), a returning starting sophomore and freshman Morgan Rodgers had the other goals.

“So far, really, what I’ve loved the most is their stepping up into the leadership role,” Hernandez said of his captains. “They have grown as individuals and they are really pushing and believing.”

Slattery and Sanchez lead a loaded junior class that also includes returning starters Monica Marrazzo and Margarita Trigo-Rocha.

“Before the season started, I had a meeting with the returners. I was really excited about the ownership that the returners took,” Hernandez said. “Since we’ve started, their leadership has shown. I love how hard they work, I really get excited about them trying. They may be making mistakes, but they are trying, they are asking. So it’s a very good feeling in that sense.”

In stark contrast to its league dominance, of Gilroy’s 22 losses over the last half-decade, 20 have come in non-league contests. 

To add a bit of salt to that wound, five of the 20 are early round playoff losses.

Hernandez has scheduled a daunting set non-league of games, including St. Francis, Santa Teresa, Monta Vista, Live Oak, Scotts Valley, Watsonville and Palo Alto. 

Why? Postseason-like competition from the get-go.

“The main logic behind it is that I try to find the eight most difficult games we can get at the beginning to see where we are at, to make sure we know what we are working towards and to prepare for league,” he said. “It’s a great measuring stick.”

As for the championship streak, Hernandez doesn’t let it influence him or the team.

“I have no control over it,” he said. “My main thing now is how do we prepare with what we have? It starts at practice. How do you keep the intensity up? And that’s where the main focus has been – at practice.

“I want the kids to enjoy what they do this year.”

– The Mustangs faced on of their early season tests on Thursday in Santa teresa in San Jose.

The Saints scored one goal in each half to defeat Gilroy 2-0.

Another tough encounter awaits the Mustangs on Saturday as West Catholic Athletic League representative St. Francis is in town for a noon game.

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