Grizzlies top West Ranch, 2-0, in final regular season contest
For the second straight season, Golden Valley boys’ soccer is headed to the postseason, and just like last season, the Grizzlies did it by defeating West Ranch, winning 2-0 at home on Tuesday to finish fourth in the Foothill League.
The Grizzlies (10-6-5, 5-4-3) got a goal in each half to put away the Wildcats (3-8-3, 2-6-3) on senior day. Senior Christian Hernandez opened the scoring with just over 13 minutes to go in the first half, finishing off a low cross from sophomore Will Flint. Senior Jimmy Lozono made it 2-0 in the second half, again with 13 minutes to play, latching on to junior Alex Risdon’s through ball to cap off the Grizzlies’ fourth straight win.
“It feels amazing,” Golden Valley senior Arya Soleimani said. “GV has always had the reputation of being a bad school. Last year, we made it to playoffs first time in 13 years. We get two years in a row now. I mean, we’re on a roll. We’re gonna keep on getting better from here.”
Lozono had made it a goal to score 10 on the season, and he did one better on Tuesday with his 11th goal of the campaign.
“I’m very happy with that goal,” Lozono said. “It was a hard-fought goal. I was running up and down the field that entire game, so I was really happy, especially on my senior night, to get that.”
It was a rough game for both sides, with heavy winds keeping balls in the air from going to their intended targets. It’s nothing new for the Grizzlies, who know that wind is always a factor on their home field, though even their head coach, Stephen Evison, had to admit that Tuesday’s weather conditions — it was also a cold day — were something different.
“It was like this [Monday], but it is a battle,” Evison said. “And playing six home league games here is kind of beneficial. When other teams come up here, they don’t know how to touch the ball as well as we do.”
The winds grew stronger as the game went on, which didn’t help the Grizzlies in the second half as they switched sides and had to play against the wind. Evison knew that could be an issue, so he switched tactics to play more defensively in a 5-3-2 formation, a change from the 4-3-3 that the Grizzlies have normally been playing.
The switch worked, as the Wildcats found little space to attack the Grizzlies’ net. There were very few times that West Ranch was able to get in behind the Golden Valley defense, with Soleimani and the rest of the Grizzlies’ defenders doing their part to keep the clean sheet.
“Simply communication,” Soleimani said. “Our defense is constantly talking, we’re talking to mids to drop. We know the chemistry, we know each other. He knows he’s supposed to mark him, I know I’m supposed to mark my guy. We have each other covered constantly. If I get beaten, there’s a person right behind me every single time.
“We’ve been playing that formation for only like a week, and it’s working out. We’re that good of a team that we’ve clicked that well, that whatever formation we play, we’re just good.”
The Wildcats are mired in somewhat of a dip in form at the end of their season. The loss marks their third straight after winning their previous two games.
West Ranch head coach Mike Kane isn’t focused on that aspect of the Wildcats’ season, though. He’s more impressed with how much his team has fought in each game despite the results not going their way.
“Nothing has made me more happy than the seniors and how hard they work,” Kane said. “I can’t ask for anything more from them.”
West Ranch will close out its season on Thursday when the Wildcats host Castaic at 3:15 p.m.
“I asked the boys before this game, ‘Let’s just show improvement,’” Kane said. “That’s all I’d like to see for the last game of the year.”
The Grizzlies are done with the regular season, which means their focus can now turn to the postseason. Evison isn’t sure when, where or who his team will play, only that this year, the Grizzlies are looking to make some noise in Division 5 after losing in the first round last season.
“Last year, I only had two starting seniors,” Evison said. “Two of my seniors got red cards against West Ranch, so it is what it is, but a lot of these boys have experience, and they’re just more hungry now that they know what it takes.”
Lozono concurred with his coach. He believes that with the Grizzlies’ recent run of form, to go along with the senior leadership — there are 15 seniors listed on the roster — there is no limit to what they can do.
“I’m confident that this year, we’re gonna be able to make a better run because we all have the experience and we’ve all been together for a while,” Lozono said.
The CIF Southern Section is set to release the soccer playoff brackets for both boys and girls on Saturday at 9 a.m.