Folsom Lake College soccer teams ready to defend titlesBy: Matt Long, Sports Editor
The Folsom Lake College men’s soccer team lost a majority of the team that won a Big 8 Conference Championship a year ago, but that hasn’t stopped the upward trend of the program.
The Falcons have won their first five games this season with predominately a new group of players that have meshed well together early in the season. With continued strong play, despite the team’s youth, winning another conference title is not out of the question.
“We’re off to a great start, and I’m happy about that,” Folsom Lake coach Justin Johnson said. “Our forwards are scoring and our defenders are keeping the ball out of the net and that’s what you want.”
Defenders Erik Mattice (Folsom High) and Arthur de Lima, goalie Kody Madore (Vista del Lago), and midfield Christian de Lima are the team’s top returning players from last year’s team, according to Johnson. Forward Miguel Medina rejoins the team after playing two years ago, and has had a huge impact so far. Medina leads the state in goals, as he’s scored seven goals in the team’s first five games.
“Miguel has always been good going forward,” Johnson said. “He was our most deadly scorer when he was in the lineup two years ago. He’s a hard worker, and good at every aspect; he’s fast, strong for his size, and outworks his opponent. He takes the chances that he gets.”
With Medina leading the offense, Federico Ruiz, a transfer from American River College in goal, along with a bevy of talented freshmen, the Falcons have plenty of talent and depth.
“We were sophomore-heavy last year, but we’re freshman-heavy this year,” Johnson said. “Our top newcomers are goalie Federico Ruiz, Adam and Andrew Ratto (midfielder and center back, respectively), Eddie Ramirez (midfielder), Tanner Boyea (forward), Adrian Jimenez (midfielder), Dylan Huft (midfielder), Mouad Zehnouni (forward)…I could go on and on. It’s basically everybody.”
Johnson said the team has started only three sophomores in the early season, though it’s not always the same three players. The rest of the starters are all freshmen.
“The best thing is that there’s not a big drop off from our starters and our bench,” Johnson said. “This is a good group, but it’s a different group than last year. Last year’s team was gritty and fought hard and worked hard. We’ll have to see about this group. I believe we can win the conference if all goes well. We have to figure out our personality and our attributes to be the best team possible.”
Falcons ready to defend title
With only two players returning from last season, winning a sixth straight conference championship might be the women’s team’s greatest feat yet if they are to do it.
Last year’s veteran team reached the state semifinals and finished the season with a dynamite 21-2-2 record. Fourteen players from that team have moved on with 13 signing national letters of intent to play at the next level. Only midfielder Riley Spitzer (Oakmont) and defender Amanda Gudino (Vista del Lago) return.
“Riley was our second-leading goal scorer last year,” Folsom Lake coach Donny Ribaudo said. “She’s taken more of a leadership role this year, not only leading by example, but also being a vocal leader. She’s settled in well with that role. Amanda was a really nice role player last year. She can fill different holes on the back line, is super athletic and plays with a ton of pace.”
The team’s only other sophomore who played a season ago is Alhan Bakideh (Rosemont), a forward who transferred from Sacramento City. The team also returns a pair of redshirts from a season ago: defender Natalia Seuthe (Christian Brothers) and goalkeeper Izzy Chinchay.
The rest of the team is all newcomers. Among those freshman who expect to make big contributions include center backs Kaylee Lemmo (Vista del Lago) and Julia Atlee (Christian Brothers), midfielder Haley Semkiw (Rio Americano) and forward Sarah Freed.
“Sarah already has three goals in two games,” Ribaudo said. “Hayley is a very versatile player, who can play in the back, midfield, and can also score.”
Other local players on the team include freshmen Michaela Mayer (midfielder) and Sarah Valentine (goalkeeper), both from Vista del Lago.
What the team lacks in experience, it makes up for with talent and skill. Despite all the new players, Ribaudo said this year is no different than any other.
“We look at every season as a building season,” Ribaudo said. “We always focus on developing players to prepare for a four-year college. That’s what we do and we’ve been successful with that. Our system of play and the way we teach it, we’re always building. We don’t have the same experience as last year, but we’ve got a lot of talent. The girls are learning the system and improving every week. The future is bright, but if we’re able to put it together this could be a special season too.”
The Falcons have started the season with a win and a tie in two games, coming from behind in both to earn points on the road against playoff teams a year ago.
“The girls have shown their character and composure already,” Ribaudo said. “They just keep plugging away. We’ve got results on the road against playoff teams so that’s huge power points for us.”