Golden Valley Grizzlies’ boys soccer had a senior night to remember.
The Grizzlies pressured well and played intense defense to notch the 2-1 home win over the Valencia Vikings.
Golden Valley senior Alex Risdon netted both goals for the Grizzlies in potentially his final home game in a black and gold uniform.
“I love winning it for this school,” Risdon said. “I’ve been on varsity four years and I felt like I really had to try to win this one for the boys.”
Risdon scored a pair of go-ahead goals to break a scoreless tie and then a 1-1 tie.
A chaotic play, in which Valencia’s defense and goalkeeper were trying to clear out a ball outside of the box, led to an easy goal for Risdon.
The senior then scored the game-winner in the 56th minute after he created some space and fired the ball perfectly into the bottom left corner of the net.
Risdon is Grizzlies head coach Stephen Evison’s only four-year varsity player. Risdon entered high school in Evison’s first year as head coach and now the two share one more memorable win together.
“(Risdon) just does so much for us,” Evison said. “When we need to go from like a nine to a 10 and a half on the speedometer, we’ll lean on Alex to do that. He’s the guy that’s going to motivate us so I’m super happy for him getting the game winner. I hope he has nothing but success after this.
“It’s just been such an honor and pleasure to have him in the program. He told me before he’s scoring three, and then that look that he made me go, ‘Oh my gosh.’”
Risdon was gunning for a third goal and blasted another shot perfectly to the top left corner of the net. The shot was a beauty that may get by most keepers but Valencia sophomore Gary Williamson made one of his three saves.
Evison was hoping to see his Grizzlies look like the same squad that knocked off Hart, won nine games earlier in the season and dominated all over the field.
“That’s something we haven’t seen in like a week … We want to dominate in all parts of the field,” Evison said. “We want to have multiple angles that we’re going to attack with you. We have the personnel to do it.”
Evison believed a tough first-half collision between sophomore Gabriel Mikhail and Grizzlies junior Cesar Renteria sparked the team.
“We had a specific game plan and in the first three minutes, we kind of started frazzled,” Evison said. “Then we got that kick in the chest with no card, and I think that really just made us think, ‘It’s not going to be like that.’ The game plan worked almost to perfection. We wanted to keep the ball and we had a tremendous style and focus that was completely lacking at Saugus.”
Valencia equalized early in the second half and never faltered. After a solid play and some back-and-forth passing with Valencia teammate Diego Jovel came up empty, Mikhail netted a goal on the next possession.
Mikhail found some space from well outside the box and fired in a laser to tie the game in the 51st minute.
Valencia coach Jose Villafan knew his team made too many mistakes on defense to win but was still happy with the group’s overall performance and effort.
“Defensively we made some mistakes and unfortunately they got that early goal in the first half that set us back a little,” Villafan said. “I was super confident that we’d get back into it and tie, and then we just kind of lost a little momentum. But overall, I’m really happy about the overall performance of the team. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a win.”
Golden Valley’s win clinches a top-three finish in the Foothill League for the Grizzlies but also hinders Valencia’s chances of entering the playoffs.
The Vikings will need some help in the standings to boost them in the postseason. Should Saugus beat Castaic, the Centurions would jump up to fourth, the final automatic seed and potentially push Valencia out of the postseason for the first time in over 10 years.
For Villafan, it’ll be tough to see some star seniors go out like this at Valencia but with numerous juniors and sophomores on varsity, the team should be back to contending for league soon.
“I’m really sad to lose all the seniors, but I think we have a really good group of core young players,” Villafan said. “I think we’ll be able to build something from there. So I’m really happy about it and I’m looking forward to the future.”
Golden Valley has a shot at its first second-place finish in the Foothill League in program history. Nonetheless, even after a long season with more non-league games played than anyone, the Grizzlies are ready for the playoffs.
“It’s gonna be a long playoffs,” Risdon said. “We’re gonna have to get ready for it for sure … We always find a way somehow. It’s crazy with this team.”
Golden Valley heads to West Ranch on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. and will find out its postseason journey Saturday morning when the CIF releases its soccer playoff brackets.
“We’re really excited,” Evison said. “If we can just continue to focus and continue to have that grind, we’ll make a deep run in the playoffs. We’ll have a home game here and we’ll win that game. I can almost predict it. I’m feeling it.”