There wasn’t much winning in Griggs’ freshman year, the Patriots’ maiden voyage into varsity sports, when they went 5-15-1.
There wasn’t much enthusiasm, either. Griggs and senior goalkeeper Katie Barsanti noted that the losing mentality spread into practices, which were tedious.
Another big change from those days? The lack of Monday night team dinners. Many of the Patriots credited the dinners, hosted by a different player each week, for a feeling of camaraderie.
When head coach Randy James took over the program at the Bay Valley Athletic League’s newest high school two years ago, everything became more organized. Now the team is eating together, practicing together and – most importantly – winning together.
“We’ve grown so much,” said Griggs, a senior midfielder/forward. “People have left this school because we weren’t good, and now we’re in first. … Last year was a big change.”
Heritage finished 12-7-5 (8-3-4 against league opponents) last season, making the playoffs but losing to San Ramon Valley in the first round. As of Monday, the Patriots own a BVAL-best 11-1-5 record and are 4-0-2 in league play. The loss came Dec. 7 to California, one of the best teams in the talented East Bay Athletic League.
“Our focus is trying to be better each game and trying to improve,” James said. “I think they’re understanding their roles better than they did last year just because they’ve been in the system for a year.”
James pointed to a tie with James Logan in December’s Tri-Valley Classic that served as a catalyst for this season. Heritage posted a 2-0 lead but the Colts battled back, eventually leading 3-2. The Patriots showed a lot of heart, James said, by knotting it up with a late goal.
Even more impressive is the diversity of the Heritage roster. A good mix of underclassmen and upperclassmen puts the Patriots in position to succeed not just this season, but the next few.
Senior midfielder Ari Gordon and sophomore forward Jamie Baron started the week leading the team with eight goals each. Augmenting the offense are junior forward Maggie Clancy’s team-high five assists and freshman midfielder Kylee Smith, senior fullback Chelsey McDonald and Griggs’ four assists.
Through the first 17 games, Heritage has only allowed 10 goals, a testament to the quality of work put in by Barsanti and the rest of the Patriots defense.
“I feel like we’ve really meshed together as a team,” Baron said. “Older girls are teaching younger girls and the younger girls are learning from the older girls. Even though the older girls have more experience, the younger girls still have a lot of talent. We have a lot of raw talent on the team; it’s just a matter of developing it.”