Long FHS soccer season ends with winBy: Brett Ransford/Telegraph Correspondent
A year removed from a Delta River League championship turned out to be a much greater distance than anyone expected.
Last year’s Delta River League champions, Folsom High’s girls’ soccer team, finished in last place this season, winning only one league game in 10 attempts and posting a 2-12-3 overall amidst coaching changes, season-ending injuries and the loss of 12 seniors from last season.
Days before the Crosstown Cup, Folsom administration relieved Johnn deGraef of varsity head coaching duties. The team’s record was 0-9 in league and the team hadn’t won a match since March 4.
Under interim head coach Sunshine Strong, the Bulldogs finished 1-1 and played arguably their best back-to-back matches of the entire season.
“I feel like our team bonded more on the field with positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts,” said sophomore defender Savannah Schultz of the coaching change. “Sunshine [Strong] is awesome for stepping in. She was super positive and nice and I think it helped our team out.”
Strong began the season as the freshman coach, took over for the junior varsity coach in midseason, Hans deGraef, and eventually replaced Han’s son at varsity.
She’s coached for a handful of years with the Roseville Youth Soccer Club. She also refereed professionally with the former Women’s Professional Soccer League.
“Moving from team to team has been stressful, so in order to quell the anxiety with each move, I focused on practice plans and trying to prove that I deserved to be there. I’m better for it,” said Strong.
Five Bulldogs returned from last season, including senior captain and goalkeeper Ashley Hallums and Jamie Baker, junior captain MacKenzie Benstead and sophomores Sierra Del Frate and Schultz.
Hallums and Baker were the only two seniors from last year’s squad, which finished one game away from its first Division I section title.
“It was a strange season for me, not having coaches who’ve coached me since my freshman year,” said Hallums, Folsom’s goalkeeper. “Coach [Mike] McBride has always been a huge support to me and all of his players. I am going to miss him a lot.”
McBride, along with the majority of last year’s team, didn’t return to the team this season.
So far none of the three coaching positions are solidified for next season.
Hallums said she hopes Folsom hires a staff able to bring out the capabilities of a young and talented team.
Strong said she hopes she can just remain with one team for a whole season.
Folsom could return 20 players next season, seven of which would be seniors.