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Lady Bulldogs' outstanding soccer season comes to an end

By: Brett Ransford/Telegraph Correspondent
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Their season ended in a loss, but the 2012 Folsom girls? soccer team will be remembered for their incredible successes. A 2-1 overtime loss in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals against No.12 nationally-ranked St. Mary?s of Stockton, ended one of the best girls? soccer seasons in Folsom history. The Bulldogs reached No. 49 nationally on ESPNHS?s Powerade Top 50, No.9 nationally on MaxPreps and lost one match all season. Folsom?s stellar defense allowed more than one goal only twice this season ? the 3-2 Crosstown Cup win over Vista del Lago and to St. Mary?s. As the rest of the Delta River League teams struggled through the first weeks, Folsom quickly stepped in as the season?s powerhouse. Led in scoring by senior forward Alyssa Jara, the Bulldogs went unbeaten (8-0-2) in the Delta River League and 15-1-3 overall. Twice this season they won six-straight games, finishing league on another three-game streak. Senior captain MacKenzie Moreno held together the defense. Her final season with the Bulldogs was her fourth on varsity. She said she knew from the start how special this group of girls was. ?We knew from the first conditioning session that we had a great chance at going far,? Moreno said. ?I have been so honored to play with such a great group of girls.? ?Although it was a disappointment that we couldn?t bring home the section title, we couldn?t ask for more, as we improved our style of play and came together as a team. I will miss playing with these girls and wish the returning girls nothing but success next year.? Coach Mike McBride said wind was a factor in the St. Mary?s match. Jara scored their goal in the final 10 minutes of regulation, erasing a 1-0 deficit from the first half. Despite the emotional loss, St. Mary?s was the 14th team this season unable to beat the Bulldogs in a regular 80-minute match. Their only loss of the season might as well have been the section title game. Folsom had to pass last year?s champion, Davis Sr. High and national prospect Anna Maria Gilbertson to force a matchup between two nationally-ranked squads in a semifinal playoff game. ?That game was something else. It was the number-one team versus the number-two team and it played like that the whole match,? McBride said. ?It was one of those games where you see both teams leaving everything on the field, and you don?t see that very often. It was a bittersweet finish, but we were really good this year.? It was obvious this Folsom team got along well with each other. McBride said high and low moments of the season included beating St. Francis twice ? the Bulldogs haven?t done that in the last 10 years ? and their two goals given up to Vista in the Crosstown Cup. They went 1-1-1 against St. Francis in 2007, but were a combined 0-5-3 in four seasons leading up to this year. ?It was a good season for us,? McBride said. ?No one has beaten us in regular time. That?s the way the girls always played. They played together and they played hard. It?s going to hurt us next year. It?s going to be a rebuilding year, but I think the girls are looking forward to it.? McBride said he expects all his players to return next season. The roster will likely include all eight returning players ? four seniors, a junior and three sophomores. Three freshmen were on their roster this season. If they turn out anything like Moreno, the next couple years could produce four-times as many four-year varsity players. Mackenzie Benstead is already two years in and all three freshmen ? Savannah Schultz, Meghan Longbehn and Sierra Del Frate ? are well on their way. Not just Moreno, but 11 other seniors will graduate from Folsom this year. With the reemergence of a freshman team at Folsom, McBride said he is happy with the level of experience young players will receive before they reach varsity. ?Alyssa [Jara] is a special player, you don?t? get one like that all the time, but the other girls were solid all year,? McBride said. ?I?m not going to miss them because they?re soccer players. I?m going to miss them because of the people they are.? The Folsom freshman squad only had 12 players this season, but lost just a pair of games. With a national ranking and a veteran coach, the Bulldogs will start the process all over again come next winter and spring.