Brighter days ahead for Lady Bulldogs

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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With Folsom High’s varsity girls’ basketball team on its way to a second-straight winless Delta River League season, there is no team looking forward to proposed realignment than the Folsom girls.

There is no guarantee of more success in the Sierra Foothill League, which is where Folsom is headed in 2014 if the proposal put forth by the Sac-Joaquin Section is accepted, but by then coach Lynn Wolking believes he will have enough tools to better compete.

Folsom’s girls’ basketball program last reached the playoffs in 2006-07, when they went 7-3 in the Delta River League and posted a 19-12 record overall, reaching the Division I section semifinals before being eliminated by Kennedy. The following year the team finished 13-13 in coach Chance Peterson’s final season before Beecher Sykes led the team to a 26-27 record over two seasons.

Wolking, in his third year as coach, has had little success. The team’s record in his first two seasons was 15-39 and this year’s team entered this week with an overall record of 5-19. Wolking, however, began seeing a small light at the end of the tunnel last season and it’s gotten bigger this year.

His first summer with the team in 2010 there were six girls who showed up to play. Last year there were 34 and he’s guessing this year that number will be closer to 40. Interest is not only building, but so is the talent level.

Next year’s group of freshmen figures to be a strong class, as many of the players will have come through Folsom United AAU program. Wolking expects a few freshmen might be on the varsity team next season, but that’s become the norm at Folsom.

With no freshman team, the Lady Bulldogs have a very young program. This year’s varsity team features only two seniors and four juniors along with two sophomores and two freshmen. The JV squad has two sophomores and 12 freshmen. It stands to reason with continued dedication and commitment to the game, this young group of players will improve and by the time they’re playing against players their own age and experience level, the team will have more success.

Wolking knew the team would struggle this year, but the challenge has been even greater than he expected. Four players who were penciled in as starters, or at the very least key contributors, did not play in the team’s 63-15 loss to Oak Ridge Thursday. Gabby Miller moved out of the district and is attending another school. A pair of juniors, Maddie Totushek and Keri Johnson, suffered season-ending knee injuries, while sophomore Danielle DaCosta started the season with the team, but has been unable to finish the season for academic reasons. That hasn’t kept DaCosta from practicing with the team, which she is allowed to do.

“I love basketball and I don’t want to give it up just because I’m missing part of my sophomore year,” DaCosta said. “I want to get better and support my team and that’s why I’m still practicing. I love basketball.”
DaCosta is looking forward to her final two years with the team.

“We’ve got a good group of incoming freshmen that are really good and I’m excited for the future,” she added.

Kate Whitney, one of two seniors on the team along with Taylor Scheid, has been in the program four years. With only five wins this season, it’s been a struggle for the team, but Whitney said the team remains strong.

“We’re all friends and we’re a tight-knit group and we all have each other’s back,” Whitney said. “It’s hard to stay positive and it’s frustrating at times, but I think we do a good job of it. We have a young team and we’re trying to build a program. I try to keep everyone listening to the coaches and playing as a team.”

Despite having little success, the team’s work ethic and attitude remains good, according to Wolking and Whitney.

While the team only has five wins, perhaps more important to their future success is the playing time the younger players are getting and the improvements they’ve made. Girls who are used to being role players have been forced to step up and take bigger roles, while the younger players have been thrown in the fire and gained valuable experience.

Knowing that wins are hard to come by, the team has kept together by setting smaller, more realistic goals throughout each game, such as breaking the press or forcing opponents to take off the press, out-rebounding the opponent or even forcing an opponent to take a timeout.

“You’ve got to  have realistic goals,” Wolking said. “The girls are working hard and are committed to the sport and that’s the biggest key. Once you have that commitment and we get our numbers up, that’s when good things are going to happen. It’s hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s there. Next year we’re going to be better and the year after that we will be pretty good and I think the year after that we could be really good.”