Winter Looks Brighter for Golden Valley High
December, 2006 - Issue #26
Fall was a difficult season to cheer for Golden Valley High sports.

The Grizzlies struggled to find their footing during their first trip through the competitive minefield that is varsity Foothill League sports.

League wins were rare for the girls golf team and the cross country teams, and rarer still for football, girls volleyball and girls tennis. Heading into the final two weeks of the fall season, only the girls golf team and the cross country teams had registered Foothill League wins, and those were scattered at best.

Not that the growing pains were unexpected. The Foothill League fields some of the fiercest competition in the southern section, after all. The tennis team, for example, had to contend with a Valencia squad that advanced all the way to the CIF-Southern Section finals last year.

The football team battled CIF-SS Division II finalists Hart and Division II champion Canyon in its introduction to league.

How bad did it get? Against Canyon, Golden Valley's football team surrendered a Foothill League record 90 points in a 90-0 landslide. Against Valencia, the Grizzlies gave up a 354-yard rushing performance to running back Shane Vereen, who didn't step foot on the field in the second half.

Girls cross country, meanwhile, was forced to contend with Saugus, which at one point was the number-one-ranked team in the state, and defending Division I state champion Shannon Murakami.

In other words, this was no neighborly welcome.

But help may be on the way. With the winter Foothill League season not far away, there are two teams in particular that stand ready to carry the Golden Valley banner into the winner's circle.

Two Grizzlies teams that have already tasted success: The boys soccer team and the girls basketball team.

How much success?

In their first attempts at varsity last year, both teams made the playoffs. The girls basketball team, which fielded only three upperclassmen, put together a 14-13 season as a freelance team on its way to a CIF-SS Division II-AA playoff cameo.

You could say they exceeded expectations.

Duplicating that feat will be an even greater challenge this year.

Head coach Troy Best started five sophomores last year, so experience may actually weigh in the Grizzlies' favor as they began Foothill League play.

Leading scorer Meredith Mathis (13.6 points per game) will spearhead what should be a balanced offensive attack. Alyssa Hernandez (11.1 points per game) and Tera McKelvey (9.6 points per game) will keep defenses honest.

Still, Golden Valley faces an uphill climb back to the playoffs. Sharing the Foothill League is CIF-SS Division I-AA champion Hart, along with section runner-up Canyon.

"With the winter Foothill League season not far away, there are two teams in particular that stand ready to carry the Golden Valley banner into the winner's circle."
Hart may have lost CIF-SS Division I-AA Player of the Year Taylor Lilley, who is suiting up for Oregon. But this is long-time head coach Dave Munroe's final season. Emotion will favor Hart in 2007.

And don't overlook Valencia, which returns a team that won four out of five league games to close out the league season last year.

Saugus, under head coach Eric Olsson, went 19-9 last year and graduated only one starter.

Between the SCV's "big four," the Grizzlies could struggle in league. But they will not go winless. They will not represent a break in anyone's schedule.

You could say the same for the Golden Valley boys soccer team.

With players from 10 countries including Ecuador, Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria, the Grizzlies went an astounding 19-2-1, which included a wildcard playoff appearance against Marshall of Pasadena.

Led by sophomores Rodrigo De Santiago (30 goals) and Ahmad Yacoub (27 goals), Golden Valley outscored opponents 127 to 29 - and that was with a team that featured no seniors and only a handful of juniors.

Will that kind of success translate to the Foothill League?

Probably not to the same degree, at least not for several seasons.

But neither will it translate to a disaster - at least it wouldn't seem so. Granted, the gap between the teams Golden Valley played last year and the teams it will face in 2007 is wide.

But this is a team that has proven it knows how to win. The Grizzlies are stocked with players who know how to score, and that alone will keep them in games. More than likely, it will enable them to steal a few before the season concludes.

Don't expect any wintertime fairytales, though. Golden Valley (and you can include West Ranch in this as well) soccer and basketball will get kicked around a bit in its first go 'round in the Foothill League. That goes without saying.

But the same used to be true about Valencia, though you wouldn't know it now. You might not even be able to imagine it.

The Grizzlies in particular were beat up in their first fall in the Foothill League. Winter may bring a fresh perspective.

It may give the entire student body the sense that things won't always be that way.

It may make soccer and basketball fans of them all.
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