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Hit The Ground Kicking Inexperienced Lady Bruins Growing Up Fast
Between the varsity and junior varsity levels, 75 percent of Riverbank High School's girls soccer players are competing on a soccer team for the first time in their lives.

But you wouldn't have guessed that from watching recent games.

The varsity Lady Bruins forced a 0-0 tie with Johansen on March 9, and landed their first win of the season in a 1-0 Trans Valley League opener over Modesto Christian on March 15. They then pressured TVL favorite, Escalon, in a 2-0 defeat on Thursday.

The 1-1-1 stanza through their last three contests is steady improvement for an inexperienced program that dropped five straight games to open preseason action.

The Bruins are now in position to be competitive in every TVL game as they gun for league wins each week.

"My goal for the team was to go 6-6 in league, and that may or may not get us into playoffs," Coach Martin Gonzales said. "It's a pretty lofty goal considering the experience we have, but if we can pull off a couple things here and there, stay healthy and get some luck, who knows what could happen."

The Lady Bruins allowed some big games from opposing forwards to start the season, but have surrendered just two goals in the last 240 minutes of play. Most of that success has been the result of strong play from a stubborn cast of defenders and midfielders, including junior sensation Celina Lopez.

The five foot, eight inch midfielder was Riverbank's leading scorer a season ago, and does most of her work in the middle of the pitch.

She is one of only three of the girls on the current roster to score or assist on goals in the 2010 season. Three girls that managed the same feat departed via graduation, while another four opted to run to track instead of return to the soccer field.

The depletion of Riverbank's front attack was obvious at the season's start, where the Bruins were shut out in four straight contests. But things turned around after a three-score effort against Waterford and the clutch goal to push past MC. That game was scoreless until Alisha Borges found an open Ruby Albor for the game-winning goal midway through the second half.

It was another game that featured sharp play from Bruin midfielders and defenders, and the second straight shutout for freshman goalkeeper, Martha Aguniga.

"Other than Celina, they are still learning how to attack and score goals," Gonzales said. "You can't just show up to a high school team and be good without putting in work. Champions pay the price, and we're not champions yet so we have got to continue to pay."

The defense is anchored by standout senior Kaitlynn Deabenderfer, who also is one of those players with experience. She was utilized all over the field last year.

Gonzales said he was happy with the effort his team showed in the tight game with Escalon, and expects his team to improve in performance as the season progresses.

The Cougars have outscored opponents 35-8 this year, and scored an incredible 15 goals in a shutout win over Orestimba on March 5.

Orestimba and potential league power, Hilmar, joined the TVL in 2011, and will fight the likes of reigning section champs, Ripon, and teams like Hughson and Riverbank for one of three playoff seeds from the league into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.

And coach Gonzales feels his Lady Bruins have shown they can be in the mix of that hunt.

"These are a great bunch of girls who don't bicker and complain, but come in, practice and give everything they have," Gonzales said. "I love taking a challenge and building a team, and I want to train these girls to play soccer right."