After a rough 2018 campaign in the Western State Conference, Hancock's women's and men's soccer teams are expecting better results this year.

"I think we've improved a lot," from where the Hancock women's team was at this point last year, said sophomore Lissette Calderon, a returning midfielder.

"A lot more girls came out," this year.

Two veterans from the men's team, right winger Nikolai Glass and left winger Sal Andrade, believe the 2018 Hancock squad did not emphasize the "team" enough when it came to teamwork.

They believe the situation has changed this year.

During the 2018 league campaign, "The biggest problem was chemistry," said Glass.

"Last year, we had a lot of individuals (who did not emphasize team play), and it showed on the field," the right winger said.

"If we can fix that, I think we can win more games. Already, the chemistry seems better."

Andrade said, "I think last year there were a lot of bad attitudes. Players would get mad at each other instead of trying to show (teammates) what they did wrong.

"This year, players are picking each other up after a mistake instead of saying, 'Why are you in the game?' The attitude is already getting better."

Veteran Hancock men's soccer coach Billy Vinnedge coached both school teams last year, his first with the women, and he will do so again this year.

"We've got two good squads," said Vinnedge.

"The women have more leadership coming back than the men do. I expect them to have a good year. The men's team is pretty young. It's just a matter of when they will come together, be a family. I think it will happen quickly."

Numbers have often been a problem for the Hancock women. At times, the team has been hard pressed to simply have reserves after the team's roster, small to begin with, was depleted by injuries.

Returners were heartened with the numbers this year. The Hancock women's roster listed 21 players at press time.

The Bulldogs started the season with a pair of 2-2 draws, one against College of the Sequoias and another against Sheridan College in Las Vegas. Elizabeth Aldana scored twice in the first two games while Hannah Montalban and Lissette Calderon also scored. 

Returning sophomores include Calderon, Diana De Leon, all three of whom are team captains, and Jennifer Perez, Sienna Ramirez, Kasandra Bright, Elizabeth Aldana, Nancy Esparza and Dania Padilla.

The Hancock women's team does not have an experienced goalkeeper returning, but De Leon is optimistic about Hancock freshman goalie Demaris Bautista.

"She's really been doing well," in practice, said De Leon.

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Returners for the men include Glass, Andrade, Marino Corona, Alfredo Saavedra, Adrian Calderon and Angel Gonzalez.

Most of the experience the Hancock men's and women's teams have returning is on the defensive side of the ball.

"We'll have four good attackers (on offense)," on the Hancock men's and women's teams, said Vinnedge.

"The competition for those starting spots is still wide open. We'll see how players look in game situations during the early games to sort that out."

Two players who had been away from the game for awhile figure to play big roles for the Hancock teams this year.

Laura Chartier is a defender who graduated from St. Joseph High School in 2018. She is a team captain this year.

"I took a year off from school last year," she said. "I found out that the only way for me to get back into school was to get back to the game I love, soccer."

Maisen Baro was a standout goalie for Righetti High School, who graduated from there in 2016. He played for Hancock later that year then was a way for a time.

"I took two semesters off," he said. "Now I'm making a comeback. Being away, I missed the passion of the game.

"I'm 100 percent back in the swing of being a goalie now, thanks mainly to the freakin' great shots by my teammates in practice."

Vinnedge said, "It's really good to have Maisen on the team this year. We're looking forward to helping him continue his (athletic) career."

Hancock started the season with a 3-1 win over COS and then lost 3-1 to the College of Southern Nevada.

The Hancock men are slated to host Taft on Friday at 4 p.m. The women will host the Cougars at 2 p.m.

Women's cross country

Veteran coach Louie Quintana hasn't always started the year with enough runners to score team points, but he has a full complement of seven runners this year.

Two are returnees, sophomores Michelle Marceleno and Mireya Martinez. Marceleno qualified for the Southern Cal meet last year.

For the first time, Quintana said, the women's cross country program will include a runner who is deaf, freshman Crystal Sanchez who graduated from Righetti High School. Rachel Mallory, a mother who also graduated from Righetti, in 2006, is also on the squad.

The other freshmen are Stephanie Rodriguez, Sierra Skinner and Yasmin Mendez. Rodriguez graduated from Cabrilo, Skinner is an Orcutt Academy alum and Mendez graduated from Pioneer Valley.

Former Hancock long and triple jump standout Kenna Wolter is assisting Quintana this year. Wolter will take over as the new Hancock track coach this spring.

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.