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Gabby Lopez: Close to closure

Prep girls soccer: G.V.’s Lopez looks at the positive, despite losing years

Posted: February 7, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 7, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Golden Valley's Gabby Lopez has been a leader and positive force for the Grizzlies throughout her four-year varsity career.

 

It’s no secret Golden Valley Grizzlies girls soccer has struggled over the years.

Multiple coaches, multiple losing seasons and only last place finishes.

Slowly, though, things are starting to change.

And it’s being done with girls like senior Gabby Lopez, a four-year varsity player who has continually taken one for the team.

“She was one of the players as soon as we got going, I looked at her and said I can work around her, I could make her whatever I needed on the field,” says first-year Golden Valley head coach Adam Yassaman.

And Yassaman has asked a lot of Lopez this season — shuffling her around the field into multiple positions, from up top, to the backline, and everywhere in between.

“To be honest, I don’t have a preferred position,” she says. “I enjoy playing anywhere. And anywhere I play I give 110 percent no matter what.”

That’s not lost on her coaches.

Her role is similar on her club team, SCV Magic.

“Gabby can start at any position and play it like it’s her primary position,” says Magic head coach Natalie Helgeson, who also coaches the Saugus Centurions girls soccer team. “Most importantly, besides her knowledge of the game, she’s the hardest working player around. She’s only 5 foot, 1 inch, but she plays fearlessly.”

Lopez has never feared much on the soccer field.

As a youngster, she joined a park and rec boys team at the age of 5 and continued to play sweeper with the squad until 11.

“It was interesting,” Lopez says. “It was challenging. I liked the feeling of passing a boy up and having him be like ‘Wow, a girl just deked me out.”

For many, though, the last four years wouldn’t have been very fun.

Golden Valley went winless in league play during Lopez’s first two years on varsity, but she stuck it out.

“It takes a lot of character to be an underdog and prove everyone wrong and stick with the program when other girls just chose not to play,” Helgeson says.

That commitment to the program has started to pay off, too.

The Grizzlies earned their first league victory in program history last season, 2-1 over Valencia, and tied Saugus for the first time this year, 0-0 on Jan. 22.

“It was a surreal moment,” Lopez says. “It took us a while to realize how far we’ve come. It gave us a lot of hope to continue and push. We focused as much as we needed to and gave it 110 percent and kept our heads up no matter what to show we’re not the weakest link in the league. People have to say ‘that’s Golden Valley,’ not ‘that’s Golden Valley, we’re going to beat them no problem.’”

The Grizzlies have no illusions that they will win the Foothill League title this season, or even make the CIF-Southern Section Division II Playoffs — and that’s OK, for now.

Lopez is happy to be a trail blazer, hoping to leave the school on the path to success, a path she has been helping to build over the last four years.

“We’ve come a long way from a team who they expected to beat 10-0, clean sheet, 20-0,” Lopez says. “That’s the team we were a couple years ago.”

That’s a situation likely not envied by other teams around the league.

But for Lopez, while it might not be ideal, it’s certainly an opportunity she’s thankful to have.

“There’s something special to be in this situation. It only pushes us more. It motivates every player on the team. We want to be those players. We want to be the year that makes a difference — that’s the year Golden Valley stepped it up and showed up.”

Golden Valley has one game left in Lopez’s final season, today against Saugus.

The Grizzlies are in last place in the Foothill League at 0-7-2, but there’s a confidence with the team that hasn’t been there the last four years.

“It would provide a lot of closure,” Lopez says of if her team wins. “Everybody, all the graduating seniors, would be happy. We know when we came in the program freshman year, we were happy with a draw. Now, we’re looking for a win. We’re not happy with a draw, we’re not settling.”

 

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