SALINAS — Monterey County Board of Supervisors has recognized the Hartnell College women’s soccer team for winning the state championship title for the first time in the program’s history.
Last Tuesday the Supervisors voted to proclaim Dec. 14, 2021, as “Hartnell Women’s Soccer Team State Championship Day” in Monterey County to honor and celebrate the Panthers’ victory and presented the team with an official County Resolution.
“The County Supervisors (wanted to) celebrate the success, hard work, team spirit and accomplishments of the Hartnell women’s soccer team, which serves an inspiration for all Salinas and Monterey County residents, but especially for women and girl athletes in our local communities,” according to a news release from Supervisor Luis Alejo, whose district includes Salinas.
This year, the women’s team won the Coast Conference title and broke several program records, taking home its first California Community College Athletic Association State Championships title on Dec. 5. The Panthers ended the season with a 24-game winning streak, the longest streak for Division 3 Junior Colleges in the country.
“The Hartnell women’s soccer team performed and dominated at the highest level, with 100 percent local student-athletes representing our local communities,” Alejo’s release stated.
The team’s student-athletes represent not only Salinas Valley communities, including Salinas, Soledad, Greenfield and Gonzales, but also Gilroy, Hollister, Castroville, Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Seaside. All members of the soccer team are full-time students at Hartnell, with many of them holding part-time or full-time jobs.
The state championships were held Dec. 3 and 5 at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut. The women’s team defeated Sierra in the semi-final game on Dec. 3, and then beat Cypress, 3-0, on Dec. 5 with a fast start and two goals by freshman forward Jasmin Castillo, a Pajaro Valley High alumna.
Offensive leader Belinda Ascencio, a sophomore from Soledad, also contributed to the historic win with a goal, her 16th score of the season. Ascencio and teammates Carly Lowi and Jada Taylor were recently chosen as first-team All-American players, as well.
The women’s team is led by Head Coach Ivan Guerrero, with assistance from Hugo Gonzales and Miguel Gutierrez.
“We don’t have the words to describe it,” Guerrero said after the final victory. “Honestly it’s been a long time coming. … It’s all about the kids and trying to move them on (to the next level). It’s about them.”
Guerrero and the Panthers coaching staff were named 2021 coach and staff of the year.
The Hartnell men’s soccer team also played well this year, coming in second at the state championships after losing in the final moments of its Dec. 5 game against Mt. San Antonio, 2-1.
The Panther women (22-2-2) had previously only reached the final eight teams in the state, while the Panther men (20-2-3) won the state championship in 2013. The teams are currently ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in the nation, respectively.
Both soccer teams, as well as the Hartnell men’s and women’s cross country programs, were recognized for their state-level achievement in a college-wide rally on Dec. 9 at the Main Campus in Salinas.