Golden Valley Grizzlies boys’ soccer won its sixth straight match on Thursday, in a Division 5 road playoff game at Leuzinger.
The Grizzlies received the golden goal from Jimmy Lozano late in the game to clinch the 2-1 victory.
Lozano fired in a strike off a corner kick from teammate Pedro Roldan. Lozano also gets the unofficial assist on Golden Valley’s first score as the senior pressured and forced a whiffed kick by the Leuzinger goalkeeper that junior Alex Risdon was able to bury.
The Grizzlies (12-6-5) came out defensively with a more conservative approach than the team is used to running. Once Golden Valley figured out the Olympians’ strategy, the Grizzlies adjusted but didn’t score until the second half. The first half was a wild one for Golden Valley head coach Stephen Evison.
“We were on our heels for the first 20 minutes,” Evison said in a phone interview. “We opened up with a defensive tactic. We had no film on the school and didn’t know anything about the coach. The game was very back and forth even after we figured it out.”
The Olympians (15-6-3) run a similar style as the Grizzlies, led by a strong midfield and right-wing attack. Evison praised his team’s defense, especially his backline, where he made no second half substitutions.
“Our defense was outstanding in the second half,” Evison said. “We didn’t sub any defenders in the last 40 minutes. Brandon Arana, shut down Leuzinger on right wing, where they like to attack. The star of our defense is Gelbert Sandoval. He’s a goalkeeper that’s in charge. Ever since we came out into the playoffs, you didn’t think there was another level to this kid but he’s got this confidence and has been unbelievable. He’s just the guy right now.”
Arthur Betancourt, Arya Soleimani, Jose Valerio and Arana played a vital role in shutting down the eighth-ranked team in the Southern Section.
The sixth win in a row extended the program’s best win streak but the team doesn’t want it to end just yet.
The Grizzlies will return home on Saturday for a second-round matchup with Palm Desert (13-4-3). Evison believes it’ll be another evenly matched team for his group but the team is ready for the challenge.
A team that once had issues with cohesiveness is now hitting its stride in the playoffs in the most successful year for the Golden Valley program.
“The boys are just amped,” Evison said. “We’re experiencing emotions we’ve never had, myself included, and it’s been all smiles. Win or lose, it’s been such a successful year for the program. We’re getting the mindset that maybe this is our turn and I’m ready to ride the wave as far as it’ll take us.”
The Grizzlies take on the Palm Desert Aztecs on Saturday at 1 p.m at Golden Valley.