Grizzlies soccer looks to raise the bar

Golden Valley sophomore forward Jacob Davila battles a defender in a matchup with Golden Valley of Bakersfield at home. PHOTO BY CORY RUBIN / THE SIGNAL
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The Golden Valley boys soccer team has endured a long history of losing seasons for a little more than a decade. 

Since the varsity program’s inception in 2006, the Grizzlies have only had two winning seasons, going 7-3-2 overall in 2006-07; and the following season, when they finished 11-7-2 .

But a new coach and a new attitude have made a difference of late, and the progress can already be seen. 

Last year, the team finished with a record of 5-11-3 overall and went 2-8 in Foothill League play, surpassing the win total for the past four seasons, and the program’s best mark since going 8-13-4 during the 2013-14 season.

At the center of the turnaround is head coach Ken Claborn, who is currently in the middle of his second season with the Grizzlies, and has guided the team to  5-2 this year, demanding accountability and raising expectations.

“They have had to work and we have had to raise the standard,” Claborn said. “They have adopted that and they have started doing that, so that’s been the first change, and it started last year. But they came in this year knowing that the demands were going to be high and the accountability was going to be high.”

The team won two Foothill League games last season, matching the combined league wins in the previous four years, picking up late-season wins against Canyon and West Ranch.

Returning seniors — Ronnie Morales, Alex Vasquez, Brian Romo — and junior Cesar Perez, who was called up from the JV team halfway through last season, the team has a slew of seasoned leaders that have done a pivotal job of ushering in the newcomers to the team.

“Those are the guys that are really setting the standard for the other guys,” Claborn said about the foursome. “Cesar is a junior, but the rest are seniors and they want to win because they know this is their last chance at Golden Valley. They know that they are good players so they demand more of their teammates and themselves which has rubbed off on everyone.”

Morales leads the team in goals (three) and assists (seven), Romo has two goals and Vasquez and Perez each have a goal. Perez also has an assist under his belt.

But Claborn’s focus hasn’t just been on this year’s team, but also the growth and development of the freshman and JV Golden Valley teams. As is evident, with the six sophomores on this year’s roster.

“A lot of them are good players, but they are inexperienced,” Claborn said. “When they get that game time experience, it accelerates their learning curb so as a sophomore, even though they might be playing 15 minutes a game, next year they are going to be ready and as juniors, they aren’t going to start from scratch.”

“One thing he’s brought, actually, he’s been motivating us and he hasn’t given up on us,” Perez said. “Sometimes in other years, coaches have been frustrated with this program because it wasn’t the best, but he wanted to make this program better. He didn’t give up on us.”

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