Against the at-that-time undefeated Mustangs, Alvarez knew it could be a daunting task.
Luckily for the Balers, the young talent was up for the challenge.
Behind two first-half goals, San Benito gave Gilroy its first loss in the Tri-County Athletic League, 3-0, at Andy Hardin Field in Hollister.
The San Benito victory keeps the Balers, now 5-2-2 in league play and 8-5-4 overall, a contender for a playoff berth with only three games remaining.
Meanwhile, despite the loss, the Mustangs remain near the top of the TCAL standings with a 7-1-1 league record, sandwiched between Salinas (7-0-3) and San Benito.
In Tuesday’s match, the playing field tilted dramatically in San Benito’s favor. The Balers dominated the ball possession in the game’s early goings.
San Benito used its speed to its advantage by bringing the ball down the center of the field and placing the ball down the right and left sidelines to allow its forwards to run on the ball.
“I decided to keep switching the speed,” Alvarez said pointing out the use of forwards Kelly Gottron and Chace Miguel. “We put speed up front. I kept the speed on top and decided to keep the center of the midfield intact. We were working as a team. They were working very, very good.”
After San Benito was awarded a corner kick, Karly Leon fired the ball into a swarm of Gilroy defenders and San Benito attackers. The ball caromed off of a pair of Mustangs before squeezing by the outreached arms of Gilroy’s keeper Alejandra Aceves.
Gilroy quickly responded though with pressure themselves.
Gilroy’s Morgan Rogers and Cynthia Sanchez controlled the Mustang attack, which built multiple chances in the game’s first half.
Sanchez missed the net twice after gaining space inside the San Benito keeper’s box. Despite the Mustang chances, Gilroy was never able to gain an equalizer.
Instead, San Benito used defensive pressure to close gaps and force quick decisions from the Mustangs.
“It was a good game. Hollister came out and they really pressured us and showed that they really wanted it deep down,” Gilroy head coach Jose Hernandez said. “Other than that, we just kind of focus on us. Kudos to Hollister, they deserved the win.”
After multiple missed opportunities by Miguel, the young freshman added to the Baler lead in the first half’s 18 minute.
On a long pass from Berenice Bribiesca, Miguel, waiting just outside the keeper’s box, headed the ball past the diving Aceves.
The ball sailed into the upper left corner of the goal to give the Balers a 2-0 lead.
Again, right after the Baler goal, Gilroy’s Sanchez threatened. Gaining a one-on-one with a corner San Benito defender, Sanchez used to quick moves to gain space and fire a shot that just missed to the right of the goal post.
Sanchez’s shot, which rolled just inches away, was the closest Gilroy got to scoring a goal.
In the second half, the two traded possessions, but could never gain an offensive opportunity until the final minutes of the half.
After a full attack by Gilroy with minutes left in the contest, San Benitos’ Marissa Espino earned a one-on-one with Aceves.
The Gilroy keeper dove to the ground to push the ball away from Espino, but the Baler junior used a quick move to get around Aceves and shot the ball into the empty Gilroy net.
The goal was scored in the game’s 79th minute.
“It was a good play actually,” Espino said of her goal. “It was good passing. It was amazing. “Well, we actually tired not to panic and get the ball up. I’m out of words. It’s just teamwork. We wanted this all along and we finally got it. It was good.”
San Benito will attempt to keep the momentum moving forward Friday when they travel to Notre Dame at 5:15 p.m.
For Gilroy, the loss will serve as a late-season learning lesson, Hernandez said.
“It’s the wind down part (of the season) so after every game we try to learn,” he said. “Hopefully it’s just a reminder to clean up our habits … We need to make sure we are staying together and working forward.”
Gilroy hosts Alvarez at 5:15 p.m. Thursday.