Heading into Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII girls soccer semifinal, the Forest Lake Christian team knew the odds were stacked against it.
The Lady Falcons were missing head coach Lyndsay Barham and key offensive threat Sarah Jeffries, and goaltender Riley Ballard was playing with a painful right wrist injury. On top of that, they were playing Bradshaw Christian (16-5-4), the four-time reigning section champ that came into the matchup riding a seven-game winning streak and hadn’t lost a game since early April.
The Lady Falcons didn’t let all of that deter their efforts, as they gave the Pride all they could handle, but when the final whistle blew, the season was over for FLC, and Bradshaw Christian moved on with a 6-0 victory.
“I just told them I was really proud of them and the effort they put forth,” said assistant coach Joel Meisenheimer, who filled in for Barham who was out due to a personal obligation. “Even after falling behind, they didn’t quit, and I was really proud they kept fighting through the whole game.”
Right from the opening whistle, Bradshaw Christian was on the attack, scoring its first goal only four minutes into the game.
For the majority of the first half, FLC freshman goaltender Ballard was battered with a barrage of shots coming from the fast and physical Pride. While Ballard did her best to keep Bradshaw Christian out of the net, the Pride scored three goals in the first half, coming on 13 shots on goal. Ballard showed great resilience, strength and grit as she saved nine shots in the first half and 13 on the day.
When all was said and done, FLC had taken only one shot on goal all game, and Bradshaw Christian had tallied 26 shots on goal. The Pride came into the contest having outscored their last seven opponents 61-4. FLC junior Sarah Ponce took the only Lady Falcon shot on goal.
With Ballard favoring her injured wrist and the game firmly in the Pride’s grasp, Meisenheimer saw fit to take his goalie out, despite her wishes to continue competing. When Ballard came to the sidelines, she was greeted by cheers from her teammates and the FLC fans, as well as a big hug from her dad.
“The whole year, as we have gone on, (Ballard) has gotten better and better,” Meisenheimer said. “For her to hold up and keep playing — I’m really proud of her.”
Wednesday’s game marked the end of three Lady Falcon careers, as starting forward Makena Wong, Kayla Agah and Lea Gibbs will graduate next month.
Despite the loss, the FLC team seemed to be in high spirits after the game, and Meisenheimer said he just hopes this will spur motivation for 2014.
“Hopefully, the girls will see this as motivation for next year,” he said. “They have to work harder earlier and get ready for teams like this in the playoffs. That’s our goal is to keep pushing and pushing hard.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.