WATSONVILLE—Watsonville High senior Kiana Varela went through a rough patch after the Wildcatz girls’ soccer team suffered some tough losses and ties to begin the season.
One of the biggest challenges was playing matches against difficult teams in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and in the section.
However, things are starting to look up for Varela and her teammates after a 0-0 draw against Scotts Valley High in non-league action Dec. 15.
“It was a big turnaround from the other games and it was really good,” she said. “It’s just a matter of getting that intensity up from the beginning of the game, getting that ball up, finishing and scoring a goal.”
The ‘Catz are still winless and currently own an 0-5-2 record in the preseason. Part of the rocky start is having a young group that Watsonville coach Gladys Mondragon said is still a work in progress.
But, they’re making sure to do whatever it takes for them to start gelling and finalize what formation works best for this year’s roster.
“Everybody’s adapting to it and now we have something to go forward with,” she said.
Mondragon can see progress and she was happy they didn’t concede a goal for the second time this season.
Now, it’s about creating opportunities to attack and making the transition from the middle third to the final third to finish, she said.
“We’re working on team chemistry and I think that’s what preseason is for,” Mondragon said. “I think once they start getting that confidence with each other and understanding where to put the ball, we’re going to be very strong.”
Varela–who switched her role to the attacker position–can see they have tons of chemistry. Plus, everyone is getting along and bringing each other up if someone makes a mistake.
“We’re just always here for each other,” she said.
After making the move, Varela’s primary goal is to be the top goal scorer and hopefully take the ‘Catz on a trip to the Central Coast Section postseason.
“That’s the way I see it coming,” she said.
Mondragon believes her standout player can play physical and put pressure on the defense, which is going to be necessary in the months to come.
“With her having to put the pressure on them, it could work the ball where [Varela] could hold it,” Mondragon said. “She can move it and allow the players to come in and develop a play.”
Mondragon is looking forward to seeing Varela develop her strength and power to shoot the ball.
“Once she gets comfortable in that area, I think that she’s going to be a very dangerous player,” Mondragon said.
The young ‘Catz squad will rely on upperclassmen such as seniors Jimena Garcia and Julissa Felix along with juniors Aubrey Rodriguez and Destiny Astorga to step up as the leaders.
Mondragon believes the most challenging part is having the younger players realize the demand and dedication it takes to play at the varsity level.
“The physical part of it and consistency in that,” she said. “It took them a couple of games to realize the level of competition.”
Watsonville learned and adapted pretty well, which showed in Thursday night’s game against Scotts Valley. It was something Mondragon was pleased to see.
Varela said the hard preseason schedule gave them a great challenge and prepared them for the league season ahead. She took note on how the difficult teams were able to connect quickly and be on the same page most of the match.
She believes it’s going to take more dedication and communication with each other in order to create a perfect mesh of their own.
“We’ll be ready,” she said.
Watsonville is heading into Pacific Coast Athletic League play and will compete in the Gabilan Division, which is the top tier of the four divisions within the league.
The ‘Catz will kick off with a home game against North Salinas (1-4-2) on Jan. 3 at 6:45pm.
It’s been six years since Watsonville won a Pacific Division league title in the now-defunct Monterey Bay League.
Others competing for a PCAL Gabilan Division crown include heavy favorites Alvarez (6-0) and Salinas (5-0) along with Alisal (2-5-1), Hollister (2-3-1) and Monterey (4-2-0).
“Hoping to have some wins this season, I see that happening for sure,” Varela said. “Like I said, we might make it to CCS this year.”
Mondragon thinks they’ve built a strong enough base during the preseason and now the idea is to transition that into a competitive Gabilan Division.
“I tell the girls that I like to play against the best,” she said. “If you want to play and go into the finals and play a championship team, we have to play the best.”