Juniors help Grizzlies mature into contenders

When Spring Valley’s girls soccer players of the class of 2013 were freshmen, they thought it might take until their senior year to make a run at a Southwest League title.

It happened a year early.

Behind two Division I commits in juniors Markie Henderson and Megan Delaney, the Grizzlies are off to an 8-1-1 start, including a 7-0 mark in Southwest play at the midway point of the regular season.

“We tried to convince them that it’s everyone’s team. We want everyone to play like they’re a senior and this is all they have (left),” Spring Valley coach Bill Hamilton said. “Seniors want everyone to play as hard as they can, and that’s the message we’ve been trying to preach (to the underclassmen).”

Henderson, who has committed to Miami, is the team’s attacking leader with 24 goals and six assists.

She is a relentless goal scorer, having a hand in 73 percent of the team’s 41 goals.

Adding to the depth of the team’s junior class, Bailey Boyack has netted eight goals.

Henderson, who also received recruiting interest from Arizona State, Loyola Marymount and San Diego, said she simply likes to attack.

“I don’t want to miss the opportunity; I just like going to the goal every time,” she said. “I’m relentless, and I don’t like missing opportunities. When I have something, I go for it. I’ll give 110 percent.”

Originally from Hawaii, Henderson quickly developed a bond with club soccer teammate Delaney, who encouraged Henderson to play in Southern Nevada. 

“We’ve always been a pretty close team, but this year everyone’s more on the same page and everyone wants (to win) just as much,” Henderson said. “No one complains, no one pouts on the bench. Everyone’s happy. When you come off the field, everybody wants to high-five you and everybody’s happy.

“We’re just really happy.”

Hamilton explained that if the team wasn’t sold on Henderson, it could be challenging.

“But the fact is, the girls love her,” he said. “They like playing with her, and they like watching her when they’re sitting on the bench. She’s a firecracker, and when she turns on, she doesn’t turn off until the game is over.”

Delaney, a field player who moved into goal after several foot injuries, has posted seven shutouts, and also made seven saves in the Grizzlies’ 2-1 win over Bishop Gorman — the Gaels’ first league loss in six years.

“Playing on the field, and knowing how field players react and their movement, it helps a lot,” said Delaney, who has committed to Southern California. “I can push it wide, having an idea what they’re going to do.”

The California native was quick to accept USC’s scholarship offer after being raised in a family of Trojan fans.

“I feel comfortable there,” said Delaney, who also considered Oregon, among other schools. “I feel like it’s a place where I can go and make a difference.

“I’m a California girl. That is where I wanted to be. I’ve always pushed myself to be a Pac-12 player.”

Delaney has only allowed five goals and has not given up more than two goals in a match.

“I have a high standard for myself,” she said. “I don’t like getting scored on.”

The reliable shot-stopper also improves the defense in front of her, including her freshman sister, Madisyn.

“With (Megan Delaney) back there, the defense can relax,” Hamilton said. “They don’t take her for granted, but they know they don’t have to be absolutely perfect. The pressure’s off of them to be perfect on every play; they can just play. They don’t have to worry. If they make a mistake, there’s a phenomenal goalkeeper who can bail them out.”

The Grizzlies hope to carry the momentum of a seven-match win streak into the second half of league play and the Sunset Region playoffs.

“There’s only more good to come,” Henderson said.

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