Note: Thursday’s girls soccer match of the day, St. Lucy’s at Walnut, 3:15 p.m.
Wednesday’s’ result: La Salle’s Kelly Tartaglione scored the winning goal in the 57th minute to give the Lancers a 2-1 girls soccer victory over Glendora. Amie Jepson scored for the Tartans, who dropped to 11-4-2.
Below: Baldwin Park’s Jeannette Gamboa has 15 goals and six assists for the surging Braves, who are having their finest start ever at 9-1-2. Can they win the Valley Vista League title? Read today’s story.
While most of the area’s high-powered girls soccer players hone their skills at area club programs such as Barcelona, Legends or other well-known teams, Baldwin Park High School’s Jeannette Gamboa developed her skills in recreation leagues in Baldwin Park, often teaming up with boys teams to improve her game.
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“I always wanted to play club, but my parents couldn’t afford it and I wasn’t going to hassle them about it,” Gamboa said.
“I’ve always wondered how I would do, but I’m going against a lot of club players in high school and I’m doing all right.”
Baldwin Park is enjoying its best season ever, improving to 9-1-2 after Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Nogales, with both goals coming from Gamboa.
The senior striker has scored in every game but one, and is among the area scoring leaders with 15 goals and six assists, which is no surprise to her coach, Moises Garcia.
“She’s been on varsity since she was a freshman but hasn’t always committed herself,” Garcia said. “She had a great sophomore season, scoring 18 goals, but her heart wasn’t in it last year.
“This year being a senior, we talked about the opportunities out there for her. She would love to play soccer in college and I would love to see it happen for her. But I told her it’s going to take a lot of work and commitment.”
Baldwin Park was 4-13-3 last season, making this season quite a turnaround for a team hoping to win its first Valle Vista League title.
In addition to Gamboa, Jessie and Kassie Garcia transferred from Ganesha, adding depth to a Braves team enjoying its newfound success.
Others are chipping in too, including Yesenia Blanco (five goals) and Diana Zuniga (four).
The Braves have outscored their opponents 39-14.
“I’ve never had this much fun playing soccer,” Gamboa said. “Everyone is into it, we’re winning, and we think about it all day.
“I’ve never committed myself like I am now, and it’s because of the teammates I have around me. They make me look good.”
The 5-foot-5 forward said she’s playing with more confidence than ever.
“When I set my mind to it, I can play against anyone,” Gamboa said.
Gamboa has scored four goals on free kicks, curled in another on a corner kick, and is deadly on breakaways because of her speed.
“What you’re seeing is a girl with a world of talent and teammates pushing her, because we all want to be part of something special,” Garcia said.
“Baldwin Park girls soccer has been a joke for years. We’ve always had good boys soccer teams, but the girls have never really done anything. For us to have a chance to compete for a league title and go to CIF, that would mean a lot to these girls.”
The Braves’ lone loss came against Rowland, losing 3-2 after leading 2-0.
“We had that game,” Gamboa said. “We just make mistakes in the end. It wasn’t because they were better than us; they were good, but we should have finished it.”
It was a loss that Garcia sort of welcomed, though.
“We won our first five games, so I wanted to see how we would react to a loss,” Garcia said. “They were angry. They couldn’t wait to play again. That’s what it’s all about, developing a winning mentality. You see that (winning mentality) growing on us this year.”
Particularly when it comes to Gamboa.
“If she had grown up playing club soccer, who knows what level she would be at now,” Garcia said. “She’s still so raw. If she had more training, more of that push and competition that club players get, she would be off the charts.
“I hope there is a scout out there that takes notice, that wants to take a chance on a girl with a lot of potential. If she gets that opportunity, I think she will make the most of it.
“But I keep telling her, it starts here at Baldwin Park. This is club for her, and she has to continue to work hard. Sometimes she can be hard-headed, but I think she finally gets it.”
Gamboa simply nodded when told of her coach’s comments.
“He’s right,” she said. “You want something, you have to earn it and you have to dedicate yourself to it.
“What’s helped me is that our team is dedicated, and when you see how much they want it, it makes you want to want it more, too.”
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