COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge boys soccer coach Alex Nichols usually paces the sidelines calling out orders. Wednesday night, in the Bruins' 2-0 victory over visiting Whitfield, he was leaning back on the Bruins bench and had his feet crossed.
Before the game, Nichols told his team pregame that he wanted them to forget about the opponent and to just focus on improving as a team and holding each other accountable.
This was Rock Bridge's last regular season home game and last competition before the Class 3, District 9 tournament, but it was the Bruins’ reserve squad that were the ones yelling out the assignments.
“I was relaxed, but the team was very focused,” Nichols said.
Rock Bridge (17-7-1) contained the ball for most of the first half, but was not able to score any goals. The Bruins and the Warriors were scoreless at halftime.
Despite not having any goals, the Bruins had many chances. Nichols attributed the scoring opportunities to an aggressive playing style.
“The idea is to be as dangerous as possible for as much as possible, and the ball will eventually go in,” Nichols said.
He said at least seven shots hit the post during the game.
The Bruins efforts paid off with 16 minutes left to play in the second half. Rock Bridge’s Cooper Smith kicked the ball off the crossbar and Tarnue Tyler rebounded the ricochet and kicked the ball into a small window between the goalkeeper and the post. Tyler celebrated by pulling his shirt over his head and flexing his biceps.
Rock Bridge did not wear their normal dark jerseys for the game because they were too similar to Whitfield’s green shirts. Tyler, who usually wears No. 25, could not find his light jersey and wore No. 26. Wearing that number, he scored his 26th goal of the season.
Tyler’s goal came minutes after he was fouled hard from behind on a tackle that left him with a bruised ankle.
“My ankle was really bothering me, but I knew we had to get a goal to guarantee the win,” Tyler said.
Five minutes later, Rock Bridge’s striker and captain Ryan Stanowski connected on a shot that banged off the crossbar and fell into the goal. This was most likely Stanowski’s final chance to play in front of a Rock Bridge home crowd.
“It will be something I will remember forever,” Stanowski said.
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