Rock Bridge soccer team looks for new level of intensity in win against Hickman

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 | 12:30 a.m. CDT; updated 9:12 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — It seems that the Rock Bridge girls soccer team is taking on the persona of the state champion girls basketball team.

The essential quality is best known as “beast mode.”

“It was our theme for basketball,” junior Kelsey Eckenrode said, sporting a T-shirt with the motto emblazoned across the front. “You do anything to win.”

“Beast mode brought us to state (in basketball),” senior forward Lauren Kelly said. “So we brought it here.”

After losing their first four games — albeit without Kelly and Eckenrode, who missed the first three because of spring break — the Bruins have gone into “beast mode,” winning two straight including Monday night’s 1-0 victory against visiting Hickman.

“I think we came out really strong,” Rock Bridge coach Kelly Gates said.

Gates also touched upon “beast mode,” remarking how the girls were extremely pumped up.

Rock Bridge (2-4) scored off a corner kick in the seventh minute when Eckenrode sent in a cross that caromed off a few players before Kelly eventually headed the ball into the upper-left corner of the goal.

Gates employs an unorthodox strategy when it comes to corner kicks, having a few players actually start inside of the goal.

“When girls run into space, they aren’t as fast,” Gates said. “It needs to be just placed right to work.”

Kelly said Gates’ strategy worked.

“Kelsey placed it in the perfect spot where we needed it,” she said.

Kelly said the Kewpies probably weren’t expecting it, considering Hickman didn’t mark the forwards inside of the net.

After the Bruins’ early goal, there were few legitimate scoring chances. Most of the possession was controlled by the midfield.

Gates said she tried switching some players around and trying new formations. Eckenrode, usually a forward, was placed in the midfield.

“Having the three of them (Eckenrode, freshman Sarah Humphrey and senior Alex Litofsky) working together was the key to the win tonight,” Gates said.

Hickman had its best chance to score in the 56th minute when a crazy scramble ensued in front of the Rock Bridge goal. Hickman’s Kristina Tan worked around a defender on the left side and delivered a low-lying cross through the penalty area. The ball was deflected a few times before Hickman got a shot on goal that was a cleared away at the goal line by the Rock Bridge defense.

As always, the rivalry clash was exceedingly physical, with numerous pushes and shoves. The referees let the two teams play for the most part, with only a few free kicks being awarded to each side.

Hickman coach Jeff Wallace said he was happy with his team’s effort but was still frustrated with his players’ difficulty scoring goals.

Hickman (2-5-2) relied mostly on counterattacks to try to put the ball in the net.

After the victory, Eckenrode was hopeful that things would continue to look up for Rock Bridge.

“We got out to an awful start,” Eckenrode said. “I think this is going to be the turning point of our season.”

She just hopes the “beast mode” success from the basketball season will carryover to the soccer team.

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