The Monte Vista Christian softball team was promoted to the Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division after winning the Cypress Division in 2023. (contributed)

Monte Vista Christian was bumped into a higher division this past offseason after coming off a successful title run in 2023. For some teams, it can take time getting adjusted to a much higher level of play. 

The Mustangs seem to be handling the competition quite well in 2024 after a 2-1 start in non-league action. 

It began with an 11-1 victory over Santa Cruz High on Feb. 22, followed by a 21-7 crushing win over Redwood City Christian just two days later.

A key returner for MVC is third year varsity infielder Kayla Fullalove-Silveira, who has five hits with a pair of doubles, five RBIs and four runs scored this season. 

“I think that our team has gotten stronger since last year,” Fullalove-Silveira said. “I feel like we’re more given this year and we’re excited to play.”

The junior standout earned CIF First Team Infielder honors for small enrollment schools in 2023.

Fullalove-Silveira batted an impressive .659 average with a team leading 54 hits and seven home runs. 

“I want to repeat what I did last year and keep improving,” she said. “I want to show that I can hit any kind of pitching and that I’m able to do exactly what I did last year.”

At the helm is second-year head coach Gerry Vargas, who led the Mustangs to a Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division co-championship and a Central Coast Section appearance in 2023.  

MVC finished with a 17-11 record, and shared the league crown with Soledad by going 13-1 in league play.

After a successful first season, Vargas said he isn’t lowering his expectations.

“We want to make it into CCS playoffs for the second year in a row,” Vargas said.  

Before taking over the program, Vargas coached both recreational and competitive travel ball. He’s been involved with girls’ fastpitch softball for 15 years starting with the Tremblers team in the Pajaro Valley Girls Softball league and finally with the Salinas Storm 12U through 18U travel teams.

After winning the Cypress Division title last season, MVC was promoted to the Mission Division with the likes of Watsonville, Carmel, Kings City, Gonzales, Pacific Grove and Santa Catalina. 

MVC’s league opener was supposed to be March 12 against St. Francis,  but the Sharks will not field a team this season due to a lack of student participation. 

Instead, the Mustangs will kick off their league season at home against Watsonville on March 19 at 4pm.

“We are in a tougher division this year,” Vargas said. “There are really solid teams in the division, I see us competing and showing that Monte Vista is on its way up.”

Prior to the season, Vargas made his goals for the team crystal clear. 

“We told the team that we want to have fun while still learning about the game of softball, and learn how to compete at your highest potential,” he said. “My goal as a coach is to make an impact on my players, not only on the field but off the field.”

Fullalove-Silveira said they’re looking to make a return to the playoffs and is excited to see how the season shapes out.

“I feel like we have a really good chance of making it back to CCS and proving who we are, again, as Monte Vista Christian,” she said.

Another key returner for MVC is senior pitcher Mae Martin, who was the Mustangs’ main workhorse in the circle with 133 strikeouts in 120 innings pitched.

“[Martin] has worked hard over the last three years and improved a lot. This should be her strongest year,” Vargas said. 

In her first start of the 2024 season, Martin threw a no-hitter in the season opener against Santa Cruz.

Senior catcher Giselle Rocha is also expected to be an impact player for the Mustangs defense this season. 

“[Rocha] is our starting catcher, we are expecting her to continue to be strong behind the plate and hitting,” Vargas said. “She is like a brick wall for us.” 

Team chemistry is something Vargas isn’t worried about, noting that players are always bonding with each other to make the team stronger. 

“We have so many selfless players on our team, they are always cheering each other on and have each other’s backs,” he said.

Vargas added the special thing about this group is that everyone is coachable, which makes it easy on him. 

“They all have something to them that impacts this team,” Vargas said. 

Fullalove-Silveira said some of the underclassmen such as freshman Ava Alvarado and Gianna Johnson are already making an impression this season.

“I’m excited for our new team,” Fullalove-Silveira said. “I think one big thing is just bonding as a team and showing that we’ve improved.”

The recent wet weather conditions was a downer for all local teams, but Vargas doesn’t look at it as an excuse for bad play. 

“The weather has been affecting all of us being able to practice on the field, but we have been making the most of it and have been able to practice indoors in our basketball gym. Just gotta stay ready to play” Vargas said

MVC has a doubleheader on Saturday at Concord High School. The first game against Berean Christian of Walnut Creek is at 10am, followed by a meeting against host Concord at noon.

*Additional reporting by sports editor Juan Reyes

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