From last year to this spring the Rolla High School girls' soccer squad has made huge strides.
But the feel-good campaign ended on the Lady Bulldogs' home field Thursday night, as top-seeded RHS was shut out by second-seeded Jefferson City Helias 1-0 in the championship game of the Missouri Class 2 District 10 Tournament on Kiwanis Field at the Bray Sports Complex.
After suffering the first losing season in program history in 2012, Rolla ends a solid 2013 with a 16-5 mark and ranked No. 9 in the final Missouri Class 2 regular-season state poll.
Helias (14-8), ranked No. 8 in the state poll, will meet Union (17-5) at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Union in Class 2 Sectional playoff action. Union defeated St. Francis Borgia 5-0 in the District 9 Tournament title game on Wednesday.
Helias will be trying to get back to the Class 2 Final Four after finishing third in last year's Missouri Class 2 State Tournament.
The Lady Bulldog lineup got extremely thin early on Thursday.
Having lost one key starter to suspension earlier in the month, Rolla freshman forward Emma Laney went down with a knee injury 10 minutes into Thursday's contest and didn't return.
That left Rolla without the forward threat it needed to go with junior Nicole Howard. And that allowed Helias to tilt its defense even more toward Howard, who was a 30-goal scorer this spring.
And Rolla simply didn't have enough firepower to match the Helias Lady Crusaders.
The Lady Bulldogs' best scoring chance came with around two minutes left in the first half on a scramble in the box.
Rolla's freshman keeper Katie Hudson kept Helias off the scoreboard until junior midfielder Becky Roberts fired a shot about 20 yards out into the right corner of the goal with 18:06 remaining in the game.
There would be no other scoring.
"She's a legit player," said RHS head coach Mike Howard of Roberts. "We struggled all night with her. She got a good look and finished it.
"But I'm proud of our girls; that was a very good Helias team. They can flat out play. By the end of the game we were really getting thin, having lost three starters. Losing Emma early in the game put us in a hole."
Rolla loses four seniors but will return a strong core for next season.
"We'll have another year of experience," Howard said. "Just getting healthy will be key.
"I think our girls wanted to get Rolla girls' soccer back to where it used to be and this season was a very good step in that direction."