By Steve Walentik
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Think of next week as the Rock Bridge boys soccer team’s midterm exam.
The Bruins are headed to Fenton for the CYC/Bob Guelker Tournament, where they’ll test themselves against some of the state’s top teams, including two-time defending Class 2 champion St. Dominic and perennial Class 3 power Vianney.
Kyle Austin had his eye on the weeklong midseason event even before Rock Bridge began practicing last month.
“Next week’s a big week for us,” said the third-year coach, whose team opens the tournament Monday against Kirkwood at the Anheuser-Busch Center. “We’ve got three tough games, back-to-back-to-back nights. It’s a two-hour bus ride in there. That’s always tough to play. I think at the end of next week we’re going to have a really good idea of just how good a team we are.”
He has to be optimistic about what his players have shown him in the meantime.
The Bruins have been on a tear since dropping their first two games of the season in Quincy, Ill. They’ve reeled off seven straight victories — all of them shutouts — with perhaps the most encouraging performance coming last night in a 5-0 dismantling of Quincy Notre Dame at Sells Field.
Rock Bridge (7-2) stormed to a 2-0 lead over the Raiders (6-3-2) in the first 10 minutes on goals by Ryan Schmidt and Matt Kelly. Schmidt ran onto a cross from Ryan Taylor and finished it over goalkeeper Mark Anderson. Kelly’s goal came when he beat Anderson at the near post with a left-footed shot off a feed from Sam Stoeckl.
“We started with some intensity,” Austin said. “We’ve really, the last two or three games, come out hard and focused. … Early on in the season, we were giving up a lot of shots early in the game, and we were making some mental mistakes, but the last three games, the first 10 minutes have been pretty flawless soccer. We kind of set the tone for the other team, which is good to see, and it paid off tonight with those two early goals.”
It was a welcome change for the Bruins, who had won five of their past six games by 1-0 margins.
“It felt good to get a cushion early,” Kelly said.
Kelly, a junior, gave the Bruins a third goal on the night’s best finish with about four minutes remaining in the first half. He came back to receive a pass from defender Kory McDonald coming out of the back, made a strong turn and fired another left-footed shot into the top left corner of the goal from about 25 yards out.
“That second goal’s world-class,” Austin said. “It’s hard to defense that. He hits that shot, he’s going to score that nine out of 10 times.”
Kelly raised his season goal total to 10, which Austin said is three more than the Bruins’ top goal scorer had all of last season.
The coach certainly appreciated seeing a few other players finding the back of the net. Schmidt’s goal was his third of the season, while Danny Baird and Jake Rettke each scored his first goal after intermission.
Baird carried the ball on a diagonal through the penalty area and fired a right-footed shot back across his body that zipped just below the crossbar to give his team a 4-0 lead with just over 30 minutes remaining.
Rettke added the final tally about 12 minutes later when he slipped behind the defense and beat Anderson to the far post with a low shot.
The defense, anchored by goalkeeper Brady Wulff, was as stingy as ever and kept the Raiders pinned in their own end most of the match.
“We’re starting to forge an identity,” Austin said. “We’ve become a defensively sound team. Up until tonight, we’ve struggled a little bit on offense, but we’ve managed to hold it together, and I think we’re creating a lot of good chances for us. I think we’re starting to find an identity. There’s a lot of pieces we’re still working on.”
But the Bruins are eager for their test.