You can’t stop them; you can only hope to contain them.
By Kevin Buckles Jr., Sports Editor
Coming into the season, the Lady Monarchs were viewed by some as a true underdog story – in soccer, not Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn’s “Dodgeball.” Thirteen games in however, the ladies in green are top dogs.
Valley is off to their best start in team history with a record of 7-3-3 (4-0-2), and is tied for first place in the Western State Conference. Led by Head Coach Greg Venger, who has been instrumental in the program’s turnaround since being hired in 2013, the team has improved in each of the last three seasons, with this year being the culmination.
The team has gone 5-0-2 in their last seven games, remaining undefeated in their conference, as they continue to blaze a new trail for their program.
“It’s been a fun run, but we have to keep it going, the pitch [to the team to keep their undefeated conference streak going] is to win the conference,” said Head Coach Greg Venger following Oct. 9’s game vs. College of the Canyons at Monarch Stadium.
Most of the run can be directly attributed to the team’s stellar defense.
For close to a month now, there has been a wall, built of bricks, hardened by cement, and wrapped in saran plastic in front of the Lady Monarchs’ goal.
Valley has not allowed a goal in their last six games – only one allowed in their last eight games — going 4-0-2 against conference foes to ascend to the top of the conference. The team also leads the conference in shout-outs this season with eight, which is on track to break last year’s school record (10).
“My [team’s] defense is really amazing,” said sophomore goalkeeper Andreya Ventura. “We all came together fast and it’s way easier playing with people you like than playing with people that have tension. I think that chemistry has definitely helped the back line be as good as we are.”
The back line of the defense was just brought together over the offseason as every defensive starter from last season (including the goalkeeper) moved on from the team. The new line features sophomores Ventura, Jasmine Shevitt and freshmen Abby Gonzalez, Jasmine Cisneros, and Jocelyn Hernandez.
“At first we weren’t clicking, we lost 4-0 to Pierce,” said Hernandez, who has five assists on the season. “I think just finding the right rotations and giving it time helped us find success quicker.”
Their offense hasn’t gelled as quickly, however. The team recently came off of a drought where they went three straight games without scoring a goal. Though Coach Venger admitted that he believes his team’s defense can carry them to a conference title, he acknowledged that their offense must improve after their 2-0 win vs. the West L.A. Wildcats Friday, at Monarch Stadium after his team shot 27 times and only produced two goals.
“Defense wins you championships, right? Offense will win you games, defense will win you a championship,” said Venger with a sarcastic smirk. “But we have to be more creative and put the ball in the net in the final third, the score could have easily been six, seven, or eight to zero tonight.”
Nevertheless, Venger seems pleased with his team winning while still working through the small kinks, mentioning that Valley’s play is what he envisioned when he said this is the most talented team Valley has had earlier in the season. “We’ve never been in this position before,” said Venger. “After three [conference] games we looked up and we were first place by ourselves, and thought ‘We’ve never done this,’ but we still have big games ahead.”
Sophomore forward Liz Saavedra echoed her coach but remains excited and confident in her team. “A lot of people saw us as underdogs, now we’re in first place.”