A unique and unlikely Rock Bridge girls soccer team is busy preparing for the next obstacle that lies ahead in its postseason run.
Rock Bridge will face Pattonville in the semifinal match Friday at 7 p.m. in Fenton, Mo.
The Lady Bruins play Pattonville in Fenton, Mo. Friday at 7 p.m.
This is the first time in 10 years the Bruins have advanced to the final four. In 2000, they finished in third place.
Coach Marc VanDover said his team isn’t preparing any differently than it has for previous games throughout the season.
“We expect this will be the most difficult challenge of the year,” he said. “Rather than focusing on a strategy, we’re focusing on what we do well. We’re a pretty physical team and we have various ways of winning.”
VanDover said one of these ways is through the defense, which he describes as having been stellar all season long.
“Katherine Crane, Adrian Kelly, Brett Fuller and Morgan Pitchford in the back have been phenomenal. Most backs clean the ball out, but Adrian keeps the ball at her foot with confidence and looks for an open player,” he said. “Our defense has just been rock solid all year.”
The Bruins also have strength in goal keeper Carrie Levy. VanDover says she's the reason for the 12 shutouts Rock Bridge has had this season.
“Carrie has been spectacular in goal. She’s come through for us more times than not,” he said.
While the Lady Bruins don’t possess a winning and losing record a final four team is expected to have, VanDover says their 13-11-2 record is no indication of the team he has.
“This has just been a very unique group to work with,” he said.
Not only has VanDover noticed this, but also Nixa coach Evan Palmer. Rock Bridge defeated Nixa 1-0 last Saturday in the quarterfinals. After the game Palmer sent VanDover a letter, which stated that Palmer and his team were “very impressed” with the Bruins. Palmer also referred to Rock Bridge as a “talented and classy” team.
Even with all of the praise and success achieved so far in the postseason, VanDover is still trying to keep his team focused on the task at hand. While the most of the girls are in taking finals, the eight seniors are already finished with school. They even graduated in a special baccalaureate ceremony Tuesday night, since there’s a chance they might not be present for Rock Bridge’s commencement Saturday.
“It’s hard for the team to stay focused at this time,” he said. “There are a lot of distractions. The girls have summer and college on the brain.”
Their concentration and inspiration for pressing on in the postseason has stemmed from an unlikely source. After ending his season with the Rock Bridge boys soccer team, senior Josh Litofsky asked VanDover three-fourths of the way through the season if he could tag along as one of the team’s managers.
Before a match against Rolla, Litofsky gave a heartfelt speech to the Bruins, saying he’d give anything to play on the field for Rock Bridge one more time.
“Josh was impressed that the team was still close and also with the commitment the girls were bringing to the field,” VanDover said. “The mindset he provided was amazing not only for the team, but for me as well.”
Litofsky was especially astounded with the way the Lady Bruins played during the last regular season game against Lee’s Summit West. VanDover said Litofsky was “elated” as the team walked off the field, despite the 3-4 loss.
“Josh told me, ‘Coach, you’ve got yourself a team,'” VanDover recalled. “He was right. That night we walked off the field like we won. It made us realize that we now have more opportunities and can play better teams in the state.”
As the season draws to a close, VanDover likes to refer to this period as “time suspended.”
“These girls will always remember in 2010 who they played with and what they played for. It connects them,” VanDover said. “This run has been exciting because it’s a great opportunity for players. It’s something they’ll never forget for the rest of their lives.”