Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bruins Unleash offense

By Steve Walentik

Kyle Austin expects a lot out of his Rock Bridge boys soccer team. With eight senior starters, the coach is counting on the Bruins vying for a Class 3 District 9 title.

“They’ve played together now for a number of years,” Austin said. “They’re familiar with one another, both in high school and in club. I think the sky’s the limit for them. We just have to work on a few things, but with that many seniors in the starting lineup and that many seniors and experience coming off the bench, we expect to be pushing there come postseason play.”

But the year got off to a frustrating start for Rock Bridge, which managed only one goal combined in back-to-back losses against Lee’s Summit North and defending Kansas Class 5A champion St. Thomas Aquinas last week in the season-opening Tiger/Bronco Classic in Lee’s Summit. Those defeats left the Bruins looking for a way to ignite their offense as they made their home debut last night at Sells Field.

They found it in a game against Class 2 Union. With senior wing Josh Hulen leading the way, Rock Bridge won 5-1.

“We’ve been working hard for a long time, and we let two in Kansas City get away from us,” senior forward Rhys McCracken said. “I think our whole team knows that. … We just wanted to win. We wanted to come out here on our home field and show our fans what we’re ready to do this year.”

The Bruins (1-2) didn’t waste any time. Hulen scored in the second minute when he headed in a cross from midfielder Josh Litofsky.

“The ball just bounced, and I saw it go right in front of me,” Hulen said. “I put a head on it, and it just looped in over the keeper. I was just the right place at the right time.”

He was right back in that place barely eight minutes later when the ball squirted to the left post. Hulen put his right foot on it and drove it into the back of the net to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

“We’ve been harping on him all week — coach” Alex “Nichols and myself — to make runs, to get back post, to paint the box, and he put himself in a great spot two times and buried it,” Austin said. “That’s all we could ask.”

Rock Bridge continued to apply pressure over the next 20 minutes and appeared in complete control of the game, winning nearly every loose ball and keeping the Wildcats pinned in their own end.

That all changed in an instant. One second McCracken was rocketing a shot off the hands of diving Union goalkeeper Garrett Hill, giving the Bruins a corner kick. The next, Wildcats forward Cody Beck was corralling a clearing effort, racing downfield 1-on-2 and unleashing a right-footed shot past sprawling Rock Bridge goalkeeper Brady Wulff to cut the Bruins’ lead in half with less than nine minutes left before intermission.

Rock Bridge looked out of sorts for several minutes after Union’s score.

“We had the pace where we wanted,” Austin said. “We had the intensity where we wanted, and the game was going how we wanted. All of the sudden, they had one opportunity, and all of the sudden they buried it, and instead of coming back from it and taking it and dealing with some adversity, we kind of stuck our heads in the sand for the last 10 minutes.”

The Bruins did recover from their momentary letdown and added three more goals. Forward Josh Dillon scored on a penalty kick in the 39th minute of the first half, Adam Henzel headed in a cross from Jonathan Gunter in the 26th minute of the second half and McCracken, the leading goal-scorer last season with 11 goals, added another penalty kick less than four minutes later.

Article and photo

Rock Bridge soccer team cruises
Tuesday, September 8, 2009 | 9:08 p.m. CDT
BY Missourian staff

COLUMBIA – With the help of two quick goals by senior midfielder Josh Hulen and two penalty kicks, the Rock Bridge boys soccer team defeated Union 5-1 on Tuesday in its home opener.

The Bruins came out with a lot of energy and scored their first goal less than two minutes into the game on Hulen’s header. Besides Union’s lone goal, a breakaway by forward Cody Beck, the Bruins controlled the ball the majority of the first half, outshooting Union 13-4.

“We really came out with a lot of intensity and were able to set the tone and pace for the game,” Rock Bridge coach Kyle Austin said. “We have a very athletic team and were able to apply high pressure and be very aggressive.”

The forceful play by the Bruins paid off when they drew two penalty kicks, one resulting in the final goal of the game.

The Bruins play at 4 p.m. next Tuesday at Quincy Notre Dame.