COLUMBIA — Rachel Rutter lives for big games.
Heading into Rock Bridge’s first-round game against rival Hickman today in the Class 2, District 10 girls soccer tournament, Rutter is poised to lead the Bruins on a postseason run.
“I get really motivated in big games,” Rutter said. “Playing with my teammates and for them motivates me. It gets me hyped to win.”
Rutter, a junior who played an integral role on the Bruins’ basketball state championship run, says the soccer team can duplicate that success.
“Definitely winning districts and going on in the semis,” Rutter said. “Saint Louis and Kansas City teams look down on Columbia teams. I want to show them we can play with them too.”
The Bruins are improving at just the right time. After starting the season 3-13, the Bruins have gone 4-1-1 in the past six games heading into the playoffs.
“We’ve had girls with their first year on varsity,” Rutter said. “It was hard to get in the flow of things. We lost Alex Litofsky and Kelsey Eckenrode (to injuries). It definitely made it harder to get playing together.”
Back on the winning track, the Bruins have been able to loosen up and have some fun. At practice on Friday afternoon, Rutter had a “Kewpie” tied to a string and was flinging it around trying to get her team motivated. Although she is seen as the comedian on the team, Rutter realizes the importance of keeping her team focused coming down the stretch.
“I like to joke around a lot, but I’m also an upperclassmen so I try to be a role model,” Rutter said. “I go 100 percent at practice. At games, I am serious. I am vocal. I feel like I’m a leader on the field. The underclassmen look up to me, and I feel like I fill the shoes a little bit.”
Being one of the more aggressive players on the Bruins’ team, she sets the bar high for the rest of her teammates.
“She’s a very physical player,” coach Kelly Gates said. “Her touch and vision of the field has improved a lot since last year.”
Stationed at center midfield, Rutter often tussles with the opponents’ top players. Her quickness and versatility allow Gates to have some flexibility with where Rutter plays, often seeing time on defense as well.
“I think I see the field really well,” Rutter said. “I’m pretty good at getting open for my teammates and at being strong and fighting for the 50/50 balls. I do whatever I can to win the ball. If not, I just go back and stay with it.”
“She is kind of the hard-ass of the team,” Gates said. “She won’t take anything from anyone.”
It seems to be working for Rutter, though. This hard-nosed approach is winning games for the Bruins. She just hopes this success continues against Hickman and on further into the postseason.