Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By David Briggs
Kyle Austin cringed as the corner kick bounced untouched three times through the box.
For the first three-plus games of the Rock Bridge boys soccer team’s season, the Bruins coach had watched his youthful team stiffen in the clutch.
They even spent more than an hour of practice Monday working on “finishing drills” after their 35 shots yielded only one goal in a weekend victory over Kirksville. But through the first 38 minutes of the Bruins’ home opener against Rolla last night, it seemed another one of those games.
If two Rock Bridge shots deflecting off the crossbar in a 10-second span didn’t offer the hint, surely it was the unmolested corner kick in the 39th minute.
“I was disappointed,” Austin said. “We talk about getting it out of the air on the corner, and it bounces three times on the ground. Three times. No coach is happy about that.”
At least until the Bruins redeemed themselves on the very same play. Rock Bridge benefited from the gaffe when Matt Kelly deflected in a laser cross off his chest seconds later in a 1-0 victory at Sells Field.
Danny Baird was positioned perfectly for the corner kick that eluded the scrum in front of the net. From his spot about 20 yards left of the goal, he sent a one-timer screaming toward the left post.
Kelly called it a “bullet,” and Baird laughed when asked if he could have struck the ball with any more force.
“No way,” he said. “I connected really well with that. Luckily, Matt was in the right place at the right time.”
Baird’s shot tore directly to Kelly, who waited a step in front of the net to distract the goalie. Kelly opened his right shoulder, braced for impact and sent a ball that seemed as if it had ricocheted off a brick wall lining into the net.
“I’ve never seen a goal scored with a chest, but I guess you can pull it off,” Kelly said. “Whatever it takes to get in the net.”
That’s the message Austin is trying to impart on the Bruins (2-2), who are battling injuries and inexperience after losing eight senior starters from last year’s 13-9 squad.
“If you put the ball in good areas enough,” Austin said, “you’re going to finish some.”
Not that the journey can’t be frustrating.
Rock Bridge outplayed Rolla (0-1) in every area. Second-year goalie Brady Wulff claimed his second straight shutout with six saves, the Bruins outshot the visitors 22-10 and they had several edge-of-the-seat chances.
In the seventh minute, defender Tyler Brittain’s seemingly innocent volley from outside the box set off a frenzied sequence. Brittain’s lob toward the net overshot Rolla’s wandering goalie and deflected off the crossbar into the path of Trevor Davis. The defender also nailed the crossbar.
Here we go again?
“Sometimes, you have those thoughts,” Austin said. “You have to stay optimistic. Yes, I cringe, ‘Here we go again.’ But again, you have to think we’re putting the ball in such good position, and you do that enough, any team can put one in the back of the net.”