WOMEN’S SOCCER — Valley catalizing after a slow start.
By, Kevin Buckles Jr., Sports Editor
Last fall, the Lady Monarchs concluded the season a sovereign bunch, reigning as the best team in program history. Records were broken, standards were set, and expectations rose for the ladies in green – the goal now being to clinch a postseason birth for the first time.
Valley learned firsthand last season how difficult earning a playoff spot can be as the state ranks community college teams by an elaborate power ranking system, which weighs each team’s strength of schedule; the Lady Monarchs finished ranked 41st in the state and 25th in the region despite winning more games than 15 teams ranked ahead of them in the state. That in turn, places a premium on non-conference opponents, just as much as inter-conference foes.
To start this season however, Valley looked rusty and out of sync, losing their first two games by a combined 5-0 score to Moorpark College and Pierce College – two non-conference teams.
“Those non-conference games are so important,” Head Coach Greg Venger told The Valley Star at the end of last season. “I think that these girls might have taken them a little bit for granted. The Pierce [College] and the Santa Barbara [College], those two in particular are such big games, that we did not realize how important those games were for the power point systems. Because essentially victories against West LA [West Los Angeles College] and Glendale [Community College] do not mean anything, so since we have four conference games that do not matter, we have to take care of non-conference games.”
Most of the early incohesive play among teammates can be attributed to a large influx of freshman, coupled with an exodus of experienced sophomores. Among those lost was the team’s leading point scorer Adriana Calderon, standout goalkeeper Athena Del Rosario, and defender Amy Van Leeuwen – the latter two were named 2nd Team Western Conference Selections, and Del Rosario, 1st team.
Following the team’s Sept. 4 loss to Pierce, Venger acknowledged that his team’s struggles as a new group playing together.
“I don’t think we’ve connected more than five passes in a sequence yet,” said Venger. “We are trying to play a possession game but we end up defending for 80 to 85 percent of the game; that just can’t happen.”
He added: “They work hard, it’s just to this point [they just] haven’t clicked. There’s not a panic button being pushed, we’ll get through it, it’s only been two games. Hopefully the upcoming road trip to San Diego will help bring them together more and gel on the field.”
That it did.
As shaky as the Lady Monarchs looked in their first two games, they looked every bit as the playoff contender that they’re striving to be in the last two matchups; thanks to a Mimi Ramirez goal in the 90th minute, Valley broke a 1-1 tie to defeat San Diego Mesa, 2-1, on Sept. 10 and crushed Cuyamaca College two days later, 6-1.
Now, following the successful road trip and bye week, Valley will receive a true test of where team stands among the ranks when they return home Friday, Sept. 18 to take on 4-0 Chaffey College – who are outscoring opponents on the road 9-1 this season.
Nevertheless Coach Venger is confident in his team’s ability despite so many new faces.
“I thought we lost a lot of talent, but at the same time I think we did a great job recruiting and bringing in a lot of talent,” said Venger. “I think this is our most talented team to date, we just have to come together and play now.”