Rock Bridge boys soccer team advances to state semifinals

Saturday, November 10, 2012 | 9:46 p.m. CST; updated 3:22 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 11, 2012
Kickapoo's Aaron Strunk, left, covers his face as Rock Bridge midfielders Tripp Sheehan and Patrick Bromstedt celebrate after Rock Bridge beat Kickapoo 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the state soccer tournament Saturday night at Rock Bridge High School.

COLUMBIA — Nick White said he had a dream Thursday night that his team would win 1-0.

White, a senior defender for the Rock Bridge boys soccer team, saw his dream become reality Saturday afternoon when the Bruins defeated visiting Kickapoo 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Class 3 state tournament.

The victory gives Rock Bridge its third straight appearance in the state final four, set to take place next weekend at Blue Springs South High School. The Bruins (21-7-1) are scheduled to play Chaminade (24-2-2) at 6 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The title game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s rarely heard of, and it is an amazing feeling,” midfielder Tyler Bales said. “I have to give it up for our team, we played our hearts out.”

Bales scored the winner for Rock Bridge with 8:29 remaining in the first half, grabbing a loose ball in the Chiefs' defensive zone and kicking it past the goalkeeper.

“It was big, the ball was just bouncing around in the box," Bales said. "Me and Eli (Sherman) went for it, and it went into the back of the net.”

“We knew they were a great team, they've beaten a lot of top ranked teams,” Sherman, a senior midfielder, said about Kickapoo (22-4). “We just had to show up and want it more.”

The first half featured physical play with players from both teams knocked to the ground on several occasions.

“We just needed to keep getting up, they kept pounding us,” Sherman said. “We just needed to keep working and showing heart, which we did."

Rock Bridge coach Alex Nichols said a lot of his players had to play hurt.

Junior Salim Gumati hurt his right hamstring in the first half but continued to play with his thigh taped up.

“It felt good cause I knew me putting my work through, everyone else is putting their work through,” Gumati said.

Rock Bridge's second-half defense was able to preserve the one-goal lead.

“They were stellar tonight, and that’s probably the best I have seen them play,” senior captain Ryan Stanowski said about the Bruins' defense. “They had no breakdowns, that is the reason why we played so well tonight.”

With less than 10 seconds left to play, Kickapoo made a final push. The Chiefs had the ball in the box and shot on goal but the Bruins goalkeeper Greg Kelly made a diving save and then punted the ball as the clock ran out.

As the final horn sounded, the entire Rock Bridge team ran to Kelly and swarmed the keeper, who said he couldn’t find the words to describe how he felt about the victory. Even Nichols had to take a moment before answering questions.

“They worked their butts off and made it to where that team had to play our game.” Nichols said. “There were very few times they weren’t giving it everything they had.”

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