After making the opening round of the Central Coast Section playoffs last year, the Gilroy High girls soccer team has reason to believe it can go a step further this season.
That’s because the Mustangs returned the majority of their starters and have added new talent as well.
“It looks good,” coach Efren Pineda said. “We look very aggressive going forward with very good attacking power. Our back line looks good. Making it to the playoffs is always the expectation because the last four years we’ve had a playoff round. It puts a little bit of pressure on the players, but they enjoy it and the expectations that come with it.”
Gilroy entered the week 1-1-1 and has one more non-league match remaining before starting play in its new league, the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s Santa Teresa East Division, on Jan. 3. Pineda is excited because of a wealth of returning players, starting with defenders Vianey Garcia and Ashley Trujillo, who are two of only four seniors on the squad.
“They’re looking to lock it down on the backline just like the last three years,” Pineda said.
Left fullback Addison Tait is a returning sophomore who got bigger, stronger and with an added drive to the goal.
“She’s coming out a little more hungry this year,” Pineda said. “She hit the net twice versus Monte Vista Christian [in a 3-1 win on Dec. 5].”
Kamryn Krejdovsky, the freshman sensation who is coming off a tremendous field hockey season, is primed to have similar success on the pitch. Krejdovsky plays the No. 6-defensive midfielder position and has made an immediate impact.
“Kamryn comes into the squad and fits like a glove,” Pineda said. “She’s kind of like the missing puzzle piece we’ve been missing the last two years and not being able to find that central six.”
Kamryn’s older sister, Maddie, is a returning junior attacking midfielder and had two goals in the first three matches of the season. Fellow midfielder Fallon Zeller also had scored twice, with both showing quick-strike ability.
Junior Zitlali Diaz had two assists over the same span, proving to be one of the team’s best distributors.
“Zitlali is playing the wide position and has a really good eye for making beautiful through passes and getting girls into space,” Pineda said. “Our attack is definitely going to be a bit more dynamic this year. Last year it was more one-sided but this year it’s looking more dangerous going forward.”
Junior Maryjane Porter is a standout returning winger and sophomore Annelise Lerma plays striker and is plenty capable of creating scoring opportunities. Pineda has been encouraged that Annelise’s older sister, senior Lily Lerma, has stayed healthy so far because she adds a lot with her playmaking skills.
“She’s very on the ball and slick, so it’s hard to get the ball from her,” Pineda said. “It’s hard to push her down because she’s just everywhere.”
Pineda said he’s challenged the four captains—Lily Lerma, Maddie Krejdovsky, Garcia and Trujillo—to continue to put their stamp on the team.
“I told them to have confidence and show us what you’re made of,” Pineda said. “They have been standout players and if they continue to play well, they will be remembered in this program. Our girls understand it’s a battle all season and everything you do and every single little detail matters. It’s a long haul to the end of the season and we need to be prepared to bring it in every practice and match.”
Pineda is particularly excited to have freshman Brooklynn Epps on the team. Though Epps is young, she has played goalkeeper for a couple of years including for her club team. In past years, Pineda and assistant coach Roney Cardoza have had to either recruit athletes from other sports to play the position or are breaking in someone new.
Now they see a player in Epps who has the potential to be a top-notch goalkeeper for years to come.
“It’s a blessing because we haven’t had an experienced goalie in four to six years, so it’s huge for us,” Pineda said. “In the past, we’ve had other girls come from softball or volleyball, and they’re not used to playing goalie year-round.
“They don’t get the experience of reading the shooter’s body language as in depth if you played the position year-round. So we’re excited and happy to work with Brooklynn because it’s different when you have a natural goalie. We have that security now that she’s in the back and she’s going to handle it.”