Freshmen fueled by challenge of playing varsity soccer for Rock Bridge

Thursday, April 11, 2013 | 8:27 p.m. CDT; updated 10:26 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 11, 2013
Rock Bridge freshman Cara Wilfong dribbles the ball during a game on April 6 at Rock Bridge High School.

COLUMBIA — For Danni Hrdina and Cara Wilfong, easy is boring.

They seek challenges. The more difficult the subject in school, the more interested the two Rock Bridge freshmen soccer players become.

They’ve found one for after school , too.

Playing on varsity as freshmen for a girls team that has won four consecutive district championships has been no easy task. But they wouldn’t want it any other way.

“The level of playing makes the game a lot more fun,” Hrdina said. “It challenges me to get better. It’s not like I’m bored, since I need to get better. It’s a fun challenge for me. I like the game more than I ever have.”

“It’s tough, and it’s hard and there are a lot of bigger girls, but you just have to step up to that kind of challenge,” Wilfong said. “You have to just kind of get used to it.”

Their teammates have helped to make the transition as smooth as possible, assisting the girls with homework assignments and telling them where to lineup on the field. Hrdina often goes to them for advice with her personal life. Wilfong called the team a home away from home.

As teammates the past two years on the Columbia Pride, a local club team, Hrdina and Wilfong forged a friendship through domination of their age group. That club team experience has helped the girls assimilate to the bigger, faster competition they now face as Bruins.

“It’s really good experience, but you can’t take anything for granted because I know there are a ton of girls that want my spot,” Wilfong said.

The way Wilfong has played thus far, no one will be taking her spot. Wilfong regularly hounds opponents with the ball from her midfield position, forcing turnovers. She scored her first career high school goal last Saturday against Lindbergh. 

“She’s an impressive soccer player,” Bruins coach Jack Rubenstein said. “She definitely doesn’t play like a first-year varsity player. She plays with a lot of energy. She pressures the ball well. She seems to put herself in good position. Good things will happen to that kid.”

Rubenstein sees a similarly bright future for Hrdina.

“She’s a workhorse, she’s a smart player and she’s skilled, so she’s going to see a lot of minutes for us this year,” Rubenstein said. “As a freshman, that experience is going to go a long ways with her through the next couple years."

Until this season, Hrdina never thought she’d want to play soccer in college. But the increased degree of difficulty against older competition has her hoping to play at the next level.

Wilfong’s older brother, Caleb Wilfong, a 13-time All-State honoree for cross-country at Rock Bridge, is a freshman on the University of Iowa’s cross-country team.

His success motivates Wilfong to excel. Meeting the bar set by his high school accolades is another challenge Wilfong has taken on.   

“It’s like, I can be that person going to play in college in three years,” Wilfong said.

But for now, the pair of freshmen girls is focused on conquering the daily challenges posed by varsity soccer. And they’re having fun, too busy to be bored.

“At first, I was like, what do I do?” Wilfong said. “But it’s like learning a new language. You go to a new country where you’re surrounded by it, and you’ll get a hold of it eventually.” 

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