The greatest season in Golden Valley boys’ soccer history came to an end on Saturday after an overtime playoff loss to the Palm Desert Aztecs.
The Grizzlies held the high-flying Aztecs scoreless for 93 minutes before senior Kyle Alas found the back of the net for the Aztecs, to win the game 1-0.
Palm Desert (14-4-3) was in control of the game since the second half whistle. The Aztecs were physical, fast and won the bulk of the 50/50 balls. However, Golden Valley’s defense made a stand through regulation. The Grizzlies’ backline played lights out against a team with a plethora of scoring options. The defense forced tough shots and deflections throughout the game but even when the Aztecs broke through for clean looks, goalkeeper Gelber Sandoval was ready to make a play.
Sandoval sealed his goal shut and made eight saves in his season finale. The junior keeper was on his toes for most of the game but made a play every time his team needed him to.
It was a heart-breaking loss, but Golden Valley head coach Stepehn Evison was amazed by his team’s defense.
“Gelber coming up again with huge saves,” Evison said. “We’ve talked about him doing this. Great thing is he’s a junior and is coming back next year. So, unbelievable defense and defensive effort.”
The Grizzlies developed just a handful of chances to strike first but were shut out in a loss for the first time in nearly two months.
Forwards Jimmy Lozano and Christian Hernandez fought hard to find a shot on target but the speedy Aztec defense consistently recovered.
The Grizzly duo had their best look with four minutes left in regulation. Hernandez fired a cross deep into the box where Lozano nearly tapped in the score but Palm keeper Diego Esparza recovered the ball.
Aztec sophomore Ryland Risk caused havoc in the midfield. Risks speed and ball control was key in Palm dominating possession. The sophomore was shadowed and unable to contribute to any scores as he’s done all season with 17 assists.
“I thought that we were ready to take on everything but I don’t know maybe we just weren’t ready for their fast pace since we haven’t seen that in a couple games,” Evison said. “Maybe we were still riding the waves of the last few games because we kind of dominated the last two games. This one we’re on our heels a little bit but we’ve won these kinds of games before.”
Senior goal-machine Tristan Mulahusejnovic was also shadowed and held scoreless for the first time in five games. The Grizzlies had their hands full slowing down the senior striker, who has 22 goals on the season.
It was hard for Golden Valley to see after the game, but the team achieved what no other Grizzly group has done before. The 2022-23 team won the most games in program history, achieved a program-best six-game win streak and won a pair of playoff games to put the cherry on top of a landmark season.
Palm Desert will move on to face Coachella Valley in the Division 5 quarterfinals on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies will graduate 12 seniors after their third place finish in the Foothill League and round of sixteen exit from the CIF Division 5 playoffs. Several members of the team will be honored in the All-League selections while a handful of players have a great case for an All-CIF selection.
The seniors will graduate after leaving their mark on their soon-to-be alma mater. The group played an integral role in what could mark a vital turning point for the Golden Valley boys’ soccer program.
“They’re the best team I’ve ever coached,” Evison said. “The record books say it all. First playoff win, first playoff home game, first team to go on a five-game winning streak and then extended to six. They all know it and they’re the best.”