By John Philip Wyllie
A year after they won a South Bay League championship and defeated cross town rival Bonita Vista for the first time in 23 years, the Hilltop Lancer women’s soccer team had great expectations coming into the 2005 season. But a slow start against murderous competition left them with an unimpressive 0-6-1 pre-league record. Now that they have reached the intra-league portion of their schedule, the Lancers expect to return to their winning ways.
“Our first eight games were all against Division II powerhouses. So, our record doesn’t look very good, but most of the games were very close,” explained Hilltop coach, Gerry Forand.
During the last several years, Hilltop has thrived in league play, but been quickly eliminated once the CIF playoffs have commenced. Forand would like to see the Lancers push deeper into the playoffs. He believes scheduling tough extra-league competition is the key.
“I’m hoping we can (once again) win our league. But (this time) when we go on to the CIF playoffs we’ll know that we can compete with some of the county’s top teams.”
The Lancers graduated seven seniors from last year’s league championship side, so several new starters will have to develop in a hurry. Forand does have an experience field general in senior All-League midfielder Giselle Ibanez and considerable strength at the goalkeeping position. Blessed with two keepers each of whom could start on most other teams, Forand has decided to rotate his keepers.
“Both Amanda (Baladez) and Nereida (Aguiar) want to play and they are both good enough to be starting almost anywhere else. So, that is one luxury that we have,” Forand said. “Nerd” is better on high balls because of her size and height and “Mandy” is absolutely fearless when it comes to diving down at her opponent’s feet. Other than that there is really not much difference between them and I am equally confident with either one.” While both Aguiar and Baladez would naturally prefer to be the full-time starter, they have adjusted to the idea of sharing the position.
“I have started in goal since my freshman year,” said Aguiar who is now a senior. “This year we have a totally new defense, so it is a lot different for the goalkeeper.” Aguiar has also had to adjust to the emergence of Baladez, a junior.
“We split the time and we have a really close relationship, one that has grown over the years,” said Baladez. “We help each other whenever we can.”
“Goalies train separately from the rest of the team and she is my partner. If I do something wrong, I don’t get angry if she corrects me. I take what she says into consideration,” said Aguiar.”
“Having two solid goalkeepers makes them work harder,” explained Forand. “We don’t tell them who is starting until game time and I think that keeps them sharper. If there is a disadvantage, it is probably that neither one gets to play continuously, but they don’t argue or complain about their playing time.”
The bottom line for Aguiar is simply this: We help each other whenever we can and we do whatever we can to help the team win.”