If you ask any of the three Selma boys soccer team captains about a Valley championship, they will tell you that’s the ultimate goal.
“A Valley championship is like a dream,” said midfielder Jonathan Torres, who is one of the team’s captains. “Everyone wants it, only a few will work for it, but it’s something that I want. It’s something I’ve been working for since my freshman year.”
Joel Ramirez, another team captain, said a winning a Valley title is one his life priorities.
“I think it’s the most important thing that I’m focusing on right now besides school and trying to go to college,” he said. “It’s all I’ve been looking forward to as a high school student joining a team.”
The third team captain Christian Lamas, the Bears’ standout goalkeeper, has wanted a Valley championship victory since he became involved with the team.
“It’ll be something good,” he said. “After I got involved, I’m like ‘I want Valley man’ and I’m trying to get it.”
When Lamas first started high school, he had no intention of joining any high school sports, but his friends on the team persuaded him to join the soccer squad because they needed a goalie. Lamas has been a team captain for two of the three years he’s played for Selma.
Torres, Lamas and Ramirez are all seniors.
This season the Bears have are off to a 9-3-3 start. The team already has more wins than last year, which were eight.
Selma head coach Ruben Zamora - who is in his first year - acknowledged the team’s chemistry, which has been a factor of the Bear’s success.
“A lot of this is because kids know each other a lot and they know how to play well together,” Zamora said. “Their individual abilities are really high. As soon as [Central Sequoia] League play starts I know we’re going to kick it into another speed.”
Last season’s squad went 8-11-1 under former coach David Norman, but went 6-3-1 in CSL play and qualified as the 11th seed in the California Interscholastic Federation Div. II playoffs. Selma was bounced out in the opening round after a 1-0 loss to sixth-seeded Reedley.
Zamora played for a Valley title as a senior in 2013 under Norman, but lost 2-0 to Roosevelt in the CIF Div. III championship game. That year, the Bears had an incredible season with a 28-4-1 record, which was the best record by Selma during Norman’s six-year tenure.
A chance to return to a section title game as a coach is something that Zamora wanted when he accepted the job.
“[Losing the title game] was certainly heartbreaking, but to be able to come back and coach a talented group of kids and maybe even have the chance to go to Valley again is something I've always wanted,” Zamora said. “It’s that ring that everyone talks about.”
As a coach, Zamora wants his team to have the same feeling of playing for a title as he did as a player.
“Valley is what means a lot to the city and it means a lot to everybody,” Zamora said. “When you get to Valley you run out of words because when you play a game like that, it’s pretty intense and you have the whole city watching.”
“To me it’s something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I know what it means and to lose it, it still taught me a lot of things.”
Zamora inherited a talented group of returnees including Torres, Lamas and Ramirez, who have been instrumental in the Bears’ hot start to the season.
In the two tournaments Selma has played this season, the Bears won gold in dominating fashion at both tourneys.
Selma placed first at the Jim Inglis tournament in Lemoore on Dec. 8-9 and replicated its success at the Chowchilla Classic on Dec. 15-16. Torres earned most valuable player at the Chowchilla tourney by scoring 12 goals.
Before the Bears start league play, the team played tough competition including Sanger and Sunnyside. Selma struggled against Sanger in a 5-0 loss, and Sunnyside is a Div. I school in the CIF.
Zamora said the Sunnyside game was the perfect game to prepare for the league schedule even though he was short-handed due to players traveling out of town during the holiday vacation.
“We played them before and they’re always tough,” he said. “Sunnyside is always a good school.”
Next up for the Bears is the beginning of CSL action. Selma will play against rival school Kingsburg at home on Jan. 9. The Bears swept the season series against the Vikings last year.