Rock Bridge athletics boasts a reputation of excellence. From 2009 to 2012, the Bruins’ girls soccer team hoisted the district championship trophy, adding to the tradition of victory. However, in the past two years, the Bruins have struggled in the district tournament.
This year, the team will attempt to get back to its winning ways.
The Bruins hold a 9-10 record into the tournament and will face Jefferson City (12-4-3), Hickman (10-9) and Smith-Cotton (12-7). The Bruins lost to the Jays 3-2 in overtime but defeated the Tigers and Kewpies 2-1 and 3-1, respectively.
The tournament begins Saturday and will be hosted in Jefferson City. Going into the tournament, the hosts appear to be the favorite. JCHS, currently ranked eighth in the state, won districts last year and finished 3rd in the state tournament.
“Jeff City will be a pretty tough game,” senior captain Reilly Strong said. “We played them earlier in the season and lost in overtime, so I think if we come out ready to play, we can definitely beat them.”
Most of the players, however, try to focus on the performance of their team, not the performance of other teams.
“We can’t control how other teams play,” sophomore Molly Gunter, leading goal-scorer, said. “All we can do is go out there, play as hard as we can and let the results take care of themselves.”
The season has been somewhat of a roller coaster for the Bruins. After starting the season 4-0 and winning two of the four games via PKs, the Bruins went 2-2 in their next four matches but were victorious only once in the next nine contests.
The losing streak was the result of fatigue and powerhouse opponents.
“Our biggest struggle this season was the number of games we played on the road against excellent opponents without any rest between,” head Coach Gary Drewing said. “The combination of tired legs and high quality opponents resulted in some performances that weren’t our best.”
That losing streak, however, may have benefited the team in the long run.
“After that run of games, we gained a lot of experience and battled mental and physical fatigue as a team,” Drewing said. “We are really coming together now, and the struggle of that many games in a row
made us a stronger group.”
The Bruins also competed against extremely challenging teams. Five of the team’s 10 losses came against highly ranked teams, including Nerinx Hall and Francis Howell Central who are the third and sixth ranked
teams in the state, respectively.
Injuries have also been a hindrance for the Bruins’ path to districts.
“There have been a couple of tough injuries during the season, and it’s hard to find people to fill in their spots,” Strong said. “But we’ve moved some people around and have come up with a really good formation [to cope with the injuries].”
The team is also gaining momentum heading into the tournament.
After the earlier series of losses, the Bruins won consecutive games against rivals Smith-Cotton and archrival Hickman 2-1 and 3-1, respectively.
“After a couple of tough losses, everyone was pretty down on themselves,” Strong said. “But we got a win for senior night [against Smith-Cotton], and I think it got us pretty pumped for our upcoming games.”
The Bruins look to build off the senior night victory and carry the momentum into the district tournament.
“We’re all just really excited for the tournament,” Gunter said. “We believe that if we play hard and come out strong every game, we have a shot to be district champs.”
By Ji-Ho Lee