Golden Valley boys soccer wears down Lancaster

Golden Valley senior midfielder Ronny Morales tries to get around two defenders in a match up with Lancaster at Golden Valley High School Tuesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The Golden Valley boys soccer team doesn’t rely on just one player. The Grizzlies believe that it takes a complete team effort to be effective and have a successful season.

Hosting Lancaster in the second game of the season at Golden Valley on Tuesday, the Grizzlies didn’t have their full squad. Due to injuries, they had to cycle players on and off the field to play out of position. Through all that, the Grizzlies pulled together as a team to defeat Lancaster 3-1 and head into the Thanksgiving break undefeated.

“This is not just a preparation for the league, it’s also preparation for the next four years of high school experience so we are trying to rotate as many people in as we can to get experience,” said Golden Valley head coach Ken Claborn. “We didn’t have as many people here as we would like, but we are going to rotate guys all year and that’s going to be one of our strengths.”

Golden Valley junior Pablo Luna dribbles the ball in a matchup with Lancaster at Golden Valley High School Tuesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Although the Grizzlies (2-0 overall) were not at full strength, it didn’t take long for them to show just how offensively skilled they are. Less than two minutes into the game, Golden Valley goalkeeper Alexis Lopez booted a ball up towards midfield in Ronny Morales’ direction. Morales controlled the ball and quickly spotted Jacob Davila, who was one-on-one with a Lancaster defender. Morales sent him a through pass which Davila handled for the game’s first goal.

Putting pressure on Lancaster’s backline for much of the first half, the Grizzlies fell vulnerable to the counterattack on back-to-back possessions.

Lopez was able to easily turn away the first one in the 27th minute, but the second narrowly missed the side netting in the 29th minute.

With under 15 minutes left to play in the first half, a Lancaster player got free and equalized the score at 1-1 and head into halftime tied.

Rejuvenated with the late goal in the first half, the Eagles (1-1) began the second half on the offensive, churning out corner kicks and free kicks to create scoring opportunities, but the Grizzlies’ backline, anchored by Alex Vasquez, held stout and turned back every chance.

In the 65th minute, Morales struck again, but this time was on the receiving end of a goal with the assist by Ulisses Arruel. As Arruel streaked down the right flank trying to prevent a ball from reaching the end line, he got a touch to the ball just before it went out of bounds towards the middle of the goalie box.

Morales and a heap of players from both teams scrambled to get to the ball first, but Morales flicked the ball past the goalie to pull Golden Valley ahead 2-1.

“The team effort,” Morales said of what contributed to the win. “This year we are more of a team and are better overall. Everyone just came out to play today.”

The Golden Valley attack didn’t quench its thirst just yet, as Davila, Morales and Juan Mendez along with various other Grizzlies continued the offensive pressure and with under four minutes left to play struck again.

On a pass from Morales, Mendez made a run down the left flank and decisively switched the ball to his right root. From about 10 yards out from the Lancaster goal, Mendez took a shot towards the near-post that flew past the Eagles goalie for the third and final Grizzlies goal.

Golden Valley senior forward Juan Mendez shoots the ball in a matchup with Lancaster at Golden Valley High School Tuesday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

On the year, Golden Valley has forced eight goals in two games. According to Claborn, that’s a precursor of what is to come. 

“We are going to get a lot of goals this year. Our offense is much better,” he said. “We could have had three or four more, we just missed so I was very happy with our offensive chances.”

Golden Valley takes a break from play and picks things back up on the road against Paraclete at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 26.

“We really stepped it up in the second half,” Claborn said. “I was kind of disappointed in our effort in the first half and to see the way we kind of took over in the second half, we stepped up the energy, the physical challenges. Obviously, our passing game was much better, so I was very happy with the response in the second half.”

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