Golden Valley didn't leave much to chance this time.
The Bulldogs' boys soccer team used brilliant finishing and stout defense to stifle Porterville-Monache 2-0 and win the Central Section Division II championship.
"It's amazing," first-year Bulldogs coach Dominic Othart said. "This team has been amazing all year. The guys put in the work. They earned this."
After a back-and-forth opening 15 minutes, Golden Valley struck first on a counter-attack. Senior midfielder Julian Zamora's shot was stuffed by Monache goalkeeper Marco Vieyra, but Fabian Solorio was there to hammer home the rebound.
"Julian is such an excellent player; he really makes things happen for us," Othart said. "He's one of our main playmakers and really sets up a lot of goals."
That goal had to stand up for a long while as neither team could sustain a lot of possession through the middle of the game. But Golden Valley (24-3-1) put the game away on another break with 10 minutes left, this time with Zamora speeding up the right side and crossing to Saratiel Campos, who slotted it past Vieyra into the lower right corner.
"We knew they were a pretty good team, but we finally had it when we got that second one," senior defender Jovani Bermejo said.
Bermejo and Zamora were two seniors who played as freshmen when Golden Valley lost the Division III championship in a penalty-kick shootout in 2010. The Bulldogs moved to Division II the next year and lost again in penalty kicks and lost in the semifinals last season.
"We finally broke the curse," Bermejo said. "We finally got it. It took a lot of heart."
Bermejo anchored a back line that allowed Monache to foray into Golden Valley territory but repeatedly cleared balls away before the Marauders (20-4-1) could generate any real scoring chances. Monache had just one shot on goal after halftime.
“Our defense was perfect; we shut them out, so that’s the best you can do,” Campos said. “We got that goal first, we got it early, and they held up.”
Golden Valley is eligible to be selected as the Central Section’s Division I representative in theCIF Southern California regionals, and the Bulldogs appear to be a heavy favorite, considering the top two seeds in Division I, Bakersfield and Fresno-Central, were both upset by No. 8 seed Clovis West, the upset champion.
“When our guys show up and play at their best, they’re a great squad,” Othart said. “We sometimes miss our chances, but we’ve been in good form lately, so I like our chances to compete at the top.”
But for now, it’s enough for Golden Valley that they’ve won the third section title in the school’s 10-year history — the first in Division II, and the first since 2009.
“The (CIF regional) is a luxury,” Othart said. “We’re going to go celebrate this win.”