BY STEPHEN LYNCH Special to The Californian
The Golden Valley boys soccer team didn't need any instructions from the sidelines when it came to deciding who should take an important free kick in the first half of its game against Mira Monte on Friday night.
The Bulldogs turned to senior captain Julian Zamora, and the standout midfielder delivered with a laser shot just inside the far post for a goal.
Zamora's blast proved to be the difference as Golden Valley defeated Mira Monte 1-0 in a game between the South Yosemite League's top two teams.
"It was big win for us tonight in league," Zamora said. "They were right behind us, and it gives us some breathing room."
Five days after having their perfect SYL record tarnished with a tie against South, the Bulldogs (19-3-1, 5-0-1 SYL) put together a determined effort that all but clinched them the league title.
Golden Valley, ranked No. 10 in the state by MaxPreps, was without head coach Dominic Othart. He was out of town for an undisclosed reason.
Down 1-0, the Lions came out aggressively to start the second half, taking three shots on goal in the first eight minutes.
Mira Monte (14-5-3, 3-2-1 SYL) had six shots on goal during the second half, but most were right at Golden Valley goalkeeper Manuel Cordoza, who was flawless in recording the shutout.
The Bulldogs finished with five shots on goal and had six corner kicks.
"We knew it was going to come down to hard work," said Golden Valley assistant Greg Quintero, who filled in for Othart. "We knew that was going to be a big, key factor just in the fact that both teams are real good teams. I think we just kind of went for it."
The Lions' best scoring opportunity of the game came in the 62nd minute when Urias Reyes fired a hard left-footed shot that deflected off the left post.
"It was a hard-fought battle back-and-forth," Mira Monte coach Ricardo Gutierrez said. "...We got a little close there at the end a couple of times and we just couldn't put it away.
"We have a hard time scoring goals."
Zamora's goal came after Fabian Solorio was bumped to the ground by a Mira Monte defender as he tried to make a move with the ball just outside of the top of the box.
"I was nervous, especially since it was that close," Zamora said. "I didn't want miss it by a lot. I tried my best to hit it in that corner."
Quintero said that he let the players sort it out as to who would take the free kick.
"This time it was Julian's turn, and he had the chance to put the dagger in," Quintero said. "It was a real good hit."
Zamora has had a season of really good hits. His goal on Friday night marked the 20th time this season that he's found the back of the net.
"A lot of us our great shooters," Zamora said. "A lot of us take them, but I think that's probably one of the first free kicks we've made in a while."
Even though the win cemented Golden Valley's spot atop the SYL standing with a pair of games remaining, Quintero doesn't see the Bulldogs coasting to the finish line.
"It's been a tradition to always win and it shouldn't stop right now," Quintero said. "So these next two games, regardless even if we have league in the bag already, it doesn't mean anything. The games shouldn't change at all. We should always come out to win."