The Golden Bears are a 5th/6th grade soccer team based out of Valdosta, Georgia, and they are a part of the VLPRA rec league.
The Golden Bears capped off their 2021 winter soccer season with a second-place league finish, and an overall record of 7-4, under head coach Corey Anderson and associate head coach Jamey Medders.
The Golden Bears roster consisted of ten players, Zachary “Jr” Rowland CB/GK, Alicia Vega CF/S, Kenneth Salgado GK/S/CM/RW, Kevin Rodriguez LW/S Devin Anderson RW/CB/S, Grant Anderson RW/CF, Nichelle Miller RB/LB, Rianne Parsley RB/LB, Brycen Shimp GK/CB, and Sidney Slaughter LB.
While each player had their main positions that they played, the coaching staff did a great job of rotating the players well all season, and allowed for players to get understandings of other positions as well.
As the only Valdosta City Schools team, the Golden Bears beat out two Lowndes teams, and finished as the runner-up in the championship game to the third Lowndes team, the Black Widows on March 30, with a final score of 4-2.
In the championship game, the first twenty minutes remained tied up 0-0, before Alicia snuck a goal in on the Black Widows. The lead was short-lived, however, with the Black Widows driving down and tying the game at 1-1.
Just before the halftime whistle blew, the Black Widows would add another goal, to stretch their lead to 2-1, and they would take that lead into the half.
Coming out of the half, the Black Widows would quickly score two more goals in the game, with 18 minutes left. Just before the final whistle blew, Kenneth would score the final goal of the game, and the season for the 5th/6th grade VLPRA soccer league.
The Golden Bears survived a shootout on Monday evening against the Dragons, another Lowndes team, winning the game with a score of 5-3, to stamp their ticket into the championship game against the Black Widows.
Through the leadership of Coach Anderson, and Coach Jamey, the Golden Bears made significant improvements as a team, as the season progressed. Many of the players had little to no experience in the sport, but it was evident early on that the coaching staff had a direction for the team, and they taught them well.
With great defense being played all season, the Golden Bears were able to stay in games, by doing a great job working together, as well as helping the goalkeeper rotation of Jr Rowland, Brycen Shimp, and Kenneth Salgado to not give up goals.
Jr Rowland did a great job all year of keeping the ball out of the goal from his Centerback spot when the opposing team made a push, in addition to making a ton of saves at the goalkeeper position.
Kenneth was a late addition to the goalkeeper rotation, but you could tell that he knew what he was doing, making several athletic saves and field-changing kicks. Brycen also played really well in the goalkeeper position, being able to make saves and flip the field.
On the offensive side of the ball, Alicia, Kevin and Kenneth scored most of the goals all season, proving to be a threatening trio in every game. With any of those three pushing the ball up the field, you were almost always guaranteed a great offensive push, as well as come away with a ton of goals!
Alicia was the unquestioned leader of the team, as the offense ran through her all season long. She is very much in command of the game and is able to play both offense and defense very well!
Kevin did a great job all season with getting the ball down the field, and even scored three goals in a quick five minute span in an earlier game!
Kenneth also played well offensively, scoring several late goals in the playoff game, to help propel the Golden Bears to victory.
Grant Anderson played up this season, being the youngest player on the team, as he is only in fourth grade, but you could not tell from how well he is able to play the sport. His older brother, Devin was also a force, being versatile enough to move around to many different positions to help the team out.
Rianne and Nichelle were two players that you could see were greatly benefiting from the coaching and the learning this season, as both players were getting better and better as the season progressed, and became really great defenders.
While the season did not end in the championship victory that everyone had hoped for, the coaching staff felt as though this team was one of the favorites that they have coached, and that the kids had come a long way! GO GOLDEN BEARS!