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Golden Valley Takes a Turn with New Coaches
March, 2014 - Issue #113
Courtesy of Shutterstock
Courtesy of Shutterstock
This era could be recognized as the turning point.

In the last year, Golden Valley High School has hired new coaches in prominent sports - football, boys basketball, cross country, baseball and boys soccer odds. Going back three years, only a few coaches remain leading their programs from that time.
In the last year, Golden Valley won its first two girls Foothill League championships - track and field and golf. And in the last year, talent has been in abundance.

Something's brewing at the school that has long been considered the athletically-struggling institution in the valley.

"I think it's kind of a turning point in that we have some very good, reputable coaches who have proven track records that are running our programs," says Golden Valley co-athletic director Robert Fisher. "It doesn't, in my mind, make sense [for students] to leave to go somewhere else when we are the local school. We do have the coaches. We do have the facilities. We do have the resources to be successful."

Fisher made an unselfish decision after the 2013 football season to resign as head coach, saying that the program needed another voice. The Grizzlies hired Dan Kelley to step into Fisher's role after Kelley went 26-7 in three seasons at Arleta High.

The Grizzlies football team is 13-77 in nine seasons of varsity football and 0-39 in Foothill League play, but was more competitive in 2013 and in 2012 groomed athlete Leon Jacobs - who received a football scholarship to play for perennial college power Wisconsin.

Tony Moskal, whose girls golf team won its first Foothill League title ever in 2013 and will be a title contender in 2014, has been with the school from the beginning. He is also a part-time football analyst on TV and says for the school to take the big step in the public eye, it will have to succeed at the sports that bring in the most attention - football and boys basketball.

"If you look at every single high school in the SCV, football is the signature program, and I don't mean any disrespect to any other sport," Moskal says. "Winning takes care of that. That's the key to everything."

Boys basketball won the school's first two league titles in 2008 and 2009, but since then has had three different coaches and hasn't been competitive in the Foothill League. Yet under first-year head coach Dan Alon, the 2013-14 team eclipsed the 2012-13 team's win total by the ninth game of the season.

On the other side, the girls basketball team eclipsed its 2012-13 win total early. The girls basketball team is a perfect example of the new Golden Valley athletic program.

Kerri Garland is in her second season as head coach, she is the co-athletic director and she teaches physical education at the school. The school has moved toward having more of its coaches be on campus so that they have more access to the kids - which helps in teaching, counseling and even scouting for potential athletes.

"Us having more eyes on the kids and being around the kids, it gets them more comfortable," Garland says. "They want to be around us more, find out what we coach. It leads kids to other sports."

A lot of the recent hires at the school - Garland, new baseball coach Gino Pomilia and Sara Soltani - are physical education instructors here and get to see many potential players in an athletic setting.

"With all that's going on at
GOLDEN VALLEY, there's a sense that wins will come."
Beyond the coaches, though, there has been an influx of talented athletes to the school.

Sophomore Elisa Pierre reached the CIF State Golf Championship in November. Sophomore Azaria Hill is a two-year varsity basketball player and a potential track and field superstar. Sophomore Bianca Tinoco battled a foot injury this year, but the cross country runner made the state finals as a freshman - the first Grizzly to make the state finals as an individual in school history.

The school also has some veteran female athletes who have made impacts in the past and will continue to do so in soccer star Samantha Jehnings and two-sport star (basketball and track and field) Caitlyn Zindroski.

On the boys' side, there's plenty of talent, too. Sophomore golfer Jonathan Chang made the CIF individual postseason last year. Junior tennis player Brandon Yu elevated the Grizzlies to a playoff team in 2013. Baseball player and senior Jaiden France already has a scholarship to play at Grambling State. And boys soccer has a superstar in the making in Francisco Perez.

The next step is wins - and whether that's fair or not, it's the measuring stick. With all that's going on at Golden Valley, there's a sense that wins will come. The foundation was never properly set at the school, it appears. Nearly a decade into the school's existence, that foundation might finally be in place.
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