Sunday, October 18, 2009

Successful send-off for Rock Bridge

By Andrew Wagaman
Sunday, October 18, 2009

Faced with a looming road trip, the Rock Bridge soccer team boosted its spirits by tying up loose ends at home.

The Bruins (12-7) picked up two wins yesterday against Springfield opponents Kickapoo and Glendale, setting them up for the final stage of the regular season.

“It’s huge to get two home wins and bounce back from a disappointing loss to Waynesville on Thursday night,” Coach Kyle Austin said. “Jefferson City and Hickman both play these guys, so they are a common opponent.”

Rock Bridge outlasted Kickapoo 2-1 in the morning and then beat Glendale 4-1 behind three first-half goals.

“We got really hyped up for our last home game,” said senior forward Rhys McCracken, who scored twice in the first 16 minutes against the Falcons. “We wanted to come out and show them right away that we were the better team.”

In the fifth minute, senior Adam Henzel sent a cross from the right side that weaved through three Falcons defenders. An alert McCracken took one dribble and kicked it into the right corner of the net.

“I didn’t expect that at all,” he said. “It rolled over two defenders’ feet before it came to me. I had a coach tell me to always expect the unexpected, and that’s what I did. I got a little touch on it and was able to put it away.”

About 10 minutes later, McCracken took possession at midfield and blew away the Glendale defense for a breakaway score. Then, in the final minutes of the half, George Brand sent a cross to Robbie Baird, who deftly one-timed it past Glendale goalie Jordan Pitts for a 3-0 lead.

With starting goalie Brady Wulff sick with the flu, Rock Bridge turned to sophomore goalie Jonas Gassman. In the first half, the Bruins defense allowed only a few long shots.

“We have a really solid back line,” Austin said. “We are anchored by some seniors back there. As the season has gone on, they have become a cohesive unit. With our backup keeper getting his first couple starts of the season, it was imperative that they stepped up, as well.”

On Tuesday, Rock Bridge travels to Jefferson City (7-3-3). Whoever wins most likely will claim the top seed in the district tournament. From there, the Bruins will take on a Camdenton team that also beat both Springfield squads. They end the regular season against state championship contender Vianney and a 9-4-2 Rolla team.

“Vianney is ranked top five in the state and has championship aspirations,” Austin said. “Rolla is always tough down there; they play a very physical and aggressive type of game. So we have four interesting games down the stretch.”

This article was published on page B7 of the Sunday, October 18, 2009 edition of The Columbia Daily Trribune.