Nine times out of 10, any successful high school varsity sports program will feature a thriving junior varsity roster that serves as the catalyst.
Case in point, the Sunnyside High School boys soccer program.
The Grizzly boys soccer program has certainly took a new direction in the last few years under the guidance of head coach Juan Pineda and assistant Gabriel Darbyson, who oversees the JV program.
Darbyson has been prepping his junior varsity players to be prepared to step up into a new role next year, as the Grizzly varsity squad will be graduating nine players.
This season has been a very successful one for the Sunnyside JV squad. The Grizzlies haven't lost a game yet, but do have five ties to their credit. Junior varsity soccer games don't play overtime because they are non-varsity contests.
"I am certainly proud of these guys," said Darbyson. "They are the best JV team we have seen in Sunnyside."
The most competitive program the Sunnyside JV squad (8-0-5) has met this season is Hanford. The Grizzlies and the Falcons battled to a pair of ties during both meetings earlier this season. The first encounter ended in a 2-2 tie while the second go-around saw both teams deadlocked at three goals apiece.
"We are pretty evenly matched," said Darbyson of both the Hanford and Sunnyside JV programs.
After beating Selah 3-2 in the first meeting of the season, the Vikings and the Grizzlies battled to a 1-1 tie the next time they met.
A big win for the Grizzlies JV squad was the first meeting of the season between Sunnyside and West Valley. The Grizzlies rocked the Rams on their home field, 5-1. West Valley and Sunnyside deadlocked at 1-1 in the second encounter. Darbyson said he was proud of his team in both games. Darbyson laughed when recounting the first game on March 30 between Sunnyside and West Valley because it was played on his birthday. Darbyson said his team told him they were going to win the game for their coach.
Sunnyside's JV squad posted dominating 5-0, 5-1 wins over Prosser.
The Grizzlies also had a powerful performance against Ellensburg at home, winning 6-0. The two teams weren't able to play their game at Ellensburg in the second meeting this past weekend because the officials didn't show.
Sunnyside's JV also whipped Wapato 6-0 earlier in the season. The Grizzlies and the Wolves meet tonight (Tuesday) in Sunnyside.
One of the most tightly battled games of the season featured Sunnyside and Grandview. The JV Grizzlies edged Grandview 2-1. The two teams meet this Saturday in Grandview for their regular season finale.
In the two non-league games played this year, Sunnyside battled Davis to a 1-1 tie and beat Moses Lake 3-2.
Darbyson said one of the reasons for the success of the JV program is that the continuity has been established in the last few years. He said players are coming into the program that will be able to fill the voids left by graduating varsity players.
Darbyson said he couldn't be more proud of his team for the season they have put in.
"They just execute the plays," said Darbyson.
He feels one of the reasons why this group works so well together is their communication.
Sergio Larios, one of the team captains and the sweeper for Sunnyside, couldn't agree more with his coach.
"We all communicate with one another," said Larios. "We play like we want to beat teams."
Larios, who is a junior, shares team captain honors with sophomore forward Alejandro De La Torre.
"At the beginning, we wouldn't talk," said De La Torre.
De La Torre said the chemistry of the team changed after the Grizzlies got a few games under their belt. He said the team was able to get a better feel for what one another can do on the field, which has carried throughout the season.