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Bruin Soccer Girls Shooting For TVL Title
Josh Hauskens isn't beating around the bush.

With Trans-Valley League soccer just a few days away, the longtime competitive soccer coach and second year Bruin general is making no beans about his goals for a young and talented group of Riverbank players.

"Last year Ripon and Hughson were pretty much untouchable, but this year if we can pull together I think we can seriously compete for a TVL title," Hauskens said. "All these girls play with heart and fire, and their overriding mission is to create a name for themselves.

"These girls are better than they think they are, and as soon as they start believing in themselves other teams are going to be in trouble."

The Bruins opened the season with a 5-0 romp of Division I Johansen, and ousted Livingston in a landslide scrimmage at home before a 1-2 showing in Manteca's Buffalo Cup. It was later determined Livingston put their JV team on the field so that game is being disputed.

In Manteca, the Bruins held their own against large schools with a history of playoff qualification. Riverbank beat Los Banos, 3-2, before slipping to Modesto 4-2 and tournament champion East Union, 8-0.

Celina Lopez assisted on two scores and found the net herself once against Los Banos. Erika Cisneros scored on the Tiger netminder while Andrea Harvey also added a goal.

Lopez and Angela Duran added a goal each against Modesto while goalkeeper Yadira Suarez pulled in 14 big saves. Suarez ended with 28 saves in tourney action while Adriana Ramires stopped 11 shots against East Union.

Riverbank was unable to gather a Trans-Valley League win last year, though the team pushed opposing programs to four ties in an injury-ridden season. The program lost an All-League goalkeeper to a devastating facial gash early on and saw a depleted roster struggle to 10 games decided by two goals or less.

But with preserving player health at the top of Hauskens' to-do list, a deep roster of players should make for a different sort of season. The team has already lost a top defender, Mariela Hernandez, for the season to a devastating knee injury, but Hauskens hopes to stop the bleeding there.

"Staying healthy is the key right now," Hauskens said. "Most people don't realize how much of a contact sport girls soccer is, and it's easy to have players go down with injuries."

Ripon went 24-1-1 last year and took Central Catholic in overtime to win a Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title. Hughson was the No. 2 seed in the SJS playoffs and lost to the runner-up Raiders after a 4-3 penalty shot battle in the postseason's opening round.

For Riverbank to challenge the likes of Hughson and Ripon, they will need to keep up the pressure with a speedy and accurate group of forwards who have already seen success in a busy preseason schedule against schools with high enrollment.

Sophomores Lopez and Kaitlynn Deabenderfer join freshman Cisneros on an underclassmen Bruin attack that should set the tone for the next few years. The group relies on strong defensive and midfield play from senior Adriana Ramirez to keep the ball on the offensive side of the field. An extensive roster of reserve players should keep the rest of the team fresh as they push for league wins.

The Lady Bruins are at Millennium of Tracy on Thursday to continue preseason action. Riverbank kicks off a tough TVL schedule with Ripon on March 15.