Golden Valley girls soccer shut out Rio Mesa of Oxnard, 1-0, at home on Tuesday afternoon and made clear two of their biggest assets this season: a smart midfield and a speedy center forward.
After building offensive pressure in the first half, the Grizzlies finally broke through in the 13th minute when freshman Kaia Usher received a cross from a teammate, but her first shot was blocked by a Rio Mesa defender. Her second touch was more successful as she scored from the right side.
“The defender flicked it up and I realized it came across towards the goal so my first instinct was just to shoot,” Usher said.
The early goal gave Golden Valley (3-2-1) some confidence, but the Grizzlies were unable to finish on any more of the many scoring chances they had as they handed the Spartans (6-2-1) their second loss of the season.
In the 34th minute, Kayla De La Merced had room to breathe for a shot from the left side of the net, but the opportunity passed and the ball went out of bounds. Later, in the 49th minute, Mariah Garcia took a free-kick that was initially saved. Natalia Zuluaga Ramirez snuck in for another shot near the left post, but it was once again saved by the Spartan’s keeper.
Isabella Montiforte had one final shot on a breakaway in stoppage time, but the ball sailed over the center of the crossbar.
The Grizzlies were able to create most of their opportunities through intelligent plays made by the midfield, which consists of Montiforte, Ramirez and Garcia.
“I’m very pleased with our midfield,” said coach Freddy Wheeler. “It’s solid, the three of them are connected. We’re looking to play everything through them and they’ve got great vision and distribution of the ball.”
Wheeler also changed Golden Valley’s formation ahead of this season to focus more on attacking, but still with an emphasis on defense when necessary. The passes are coming more easily as well and players like Garcia are noticing the difference.
“The big thing standing out to us was we connected more passes today,” Garcia, a junior, said. “We found each other through the space and we had the majority of, 80% possession of the game. Our defense is very strong, our attack is very strong and overall we have overcome difficulties from last year to this year.”
The Grizzlies have already matched last year’s overall win total and are looking to rebound from an 0-10 record in Foothill League play.
“I think the biggest difference this year is first we have a stronger bond this year, so we’re more connected on the field and outside the field and second, our attack is a lot better,” Garcia said. “We have a stronger midfield and faster forwards so we can get to the ball and get a goal in.”
“Come out and watch us in league because we’re going to upset some people.”
Golden Valley next plays Alemany at home on Monday at 3:15 p.m. The Grizzlies are set to begin league play against Hart on Jan. 7 at home at 3:5 p.m.