The Live Oak High girls soccer team has moved down to the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s B Division, the Santa Teresa, for this season. Longtime coach Tony Vasquez reasoned it would be good for the program to take a step back after being hit hard by graduation the last few years.
But make no mistake: the Acorns will probably be making a return to the A Division, the Mount Hamilton, as soon as next year. A lot of that will depend on how the team fares this season.
“We took a step back so we can build with five to six freshmen on the team this year,” Vasquez said. “I know another five to six girls are coming in next year who could be really good so things are looking good for the future.”
Vasquez said this season will be an opportunity for several players to step up as Karlie Lema—one of the top players in the Central Coast Section the last few years—graduated in the spring. Forward Andrea Gonzales looks to be a potent goal scorer, and Ashley Brink, Athena Guevara, Alex Bergholz and Maddie Vasquez are poised to be difference-makers as well.
Live Oak only has four upperclassmen on its roster consisting of three seniors and one junior. Brink is one of the senior captains and plays tough defense at the defender position.
“She’s very solid and I always know what I’m going to get from her,” Vasquez said.
Guevara, a center midfielder, has a high soccer IQ and Vasquez is hoping she passes on her knowledge to the less experienced freshmen and sophomores.
“We’re looking for her to provide valuable insight to a lot of the younger girls on the team that are playing in the middle,” Vasquez said. “She has a lot of experience and she will use it well.”
Bergholz is the stepsister of Lema and probably the most versatile player on the team, as Vasquez could utilize her at forward, midfield and defender.
“I’ll move her around a lot because she looks really good out there,” Vasquez said. “We can’t wait to see her play up top with Dre (Gonzales) as that will be a good scoring combo for us.”
Maddie is the daughter of Tony and could be one of the top freshmen in the entire Blossom Valley League. Maddie has been around the game her entire life since Tony has been coaching soccer longer than she’s been alive.
“Maddie has been watching Live Oak soccer since birth and now she finally gets to be on the field which is really awesome for both of us,” Tony said.
Despite having just four upperclassmen, the Acorns still expect to compete for the Santa Teresa Division championship this season. Gonzales said the team is doing well and focusing on connecting on and off the field.
“I feel like the team really needs to bond this year in order for us to play well,” she said. “If we can work together, communicate and have that bond and trust, we’re going to do well.”
Gonzales has thrived despite sustaining various injuries in the last couple of years, including in the abbreviated Covid spring season when she fractured her elbow in the Westmont game, sidelining her for the last half of the year. Gonzales also suffered a knee injury a couple of years ago but is now fully recovered.
Gonzales has a good feel for the game and vision, allowing her to make pinpoint passes as the play opens up.
“I feel like I’m able to find openings for others and able to move the ball forward and hold onto the ball until people move up which creates opportunities for us to shoot and score,” she said.
Gonzales added she’s building solid chemistry with freshman forward Evelyn Palominos, who scored a goal in a win over Gilroy.
“I feel like we’re still building our bond, but so far it’s going well between us,” Gonzales said. “One of my roles is to help lead and mentor the younger players, that and being a goal scorer. It’s a huge step because I know I can’t meet Karlie’s numbers, but I’ll do the best I can. Sometimes, I do feel like I have to be perfect, but I know with the help of my teammates and us trusting each other, we’ll be able to pass to each other, communicate and score goals.”
Vasquez said the Acorns look primed to have a very strong team in the coming years. Live Oak last won a CCS playoff title in 2004, a team coached by Vasquez.
“We’re looking to make a great run here in the next four years,” Vasquez said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.