COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge boys soccer team is one win away from competing in the state final four for the third straight season.
Rock Bridge (20-7-1) hosts Kickapoo High School (22-3) in a Class 3 state a quarterfinal for a third consecutive year, they remain focused on the goal of a state title.
“Going to state three years in a row is almost unheard of,” said Rock Bridge head coach Alex Nichols.
However, Nichols said his players do not simply want to compete in the state final four, but bring home the school's first state soccer trophy.
Rock Bridge has made it to the state final four competition on three previous occasions. The Bruins made their first appearance in 1987 and again in 2010, after a 23-year hiatus. In 2011, they repeated this feat, but lost to Oakville High School on penalty kicks.
Nichols said his team had barely had time to reflect on its win over Jefferson City, before shifting its attention to Saturday's match-up.
“They respect Jeff City, but their expectations are to get back to state, and to win state,” Nichols said. “Right after the game, they switched their focus to Kickapoo.”
The Kickapoo Chiefs lost three regular-season matches by three total goals, two of which they conceded in overtime. The team's third loss came at the hands of Marquette University High School in Milwaukee. Marquette defeated both Kickapoo and Rock Bridge in the St. Louis Gateway City Classic soccer tournament in September.
Nichols was quick to heap praise on the Kickapoo Chiefs.
“They have 15 seniors and seven of those seniors have been playing on varsity since they were sophomores,” Nichols said. “This is probably the most special team they have had in 20 years.”
The Bruins have their own group of seniors who are are determined to win this year’s state title.
Captain Eli Sherman said that he couldn’t bear going home empty-handed the past two seasons, especially when the team had come so close to a finals appearance.
“This year’s team shows a lot more heart, and I feel like that may help take us farther,” Sherman said.
Nichols said that he has relied on senior Patrick Bromstedt for his leadership. He said that Bromstedt leads by example-beating opponents to loose balls and playing with a bullish demeanor.
“He puts us in the position where we can get goals,” Nichols said. “You don’t get the stats doing what he does, but if you don’t have a player like that, you’re not going to be successful.”
Bromstedt said that wining the state title was on his list of top five things to do in life.
“Last year was the last time of going there and not succeeding,” he said. “This year I’m going to take it all.”
Bromstedt said he does not think Kickapoo is much better than Rock Bridge and added if the Bruins are clicking as a team then they will win.