COLUMBIA — Jack Rubenstein's confidence in his team never wavered. Despite starting the season 3-7 and going 13 games without a multi-goal game, the first-year coach of the Rock Bridge girls soccer team liked the way his team was playing.
All season, Rubenstein preached patience, saying the successful results would come if the team continued its efforts. He was right.
Senior Olivia Mends' overtime goal against Hickman on Wednesday night at Rock Bridge gave the Bruins a 2-1 victory, its fourth consecutive overall, and second in three matches this season against the rival Kewpies.
Senior captain Morgan Bumby sent the ball across the goal box, and Mends put it in the back of the net off a bounce.
"It was an ugly game for both teams, but we were able to get some combination plays going," Rubenstein said, referring to the game winner and earlier scoring chances in overtime. "Once we realized that that's how we're dangerous, we're hard to stop."
Rubenstein said his team is playing a pretty style of soccer right now. He attributed this to an unselfish approach that shares the ball and gets all forwards involved in the offense.
The extra passing hasn't always happened this season for the Bruins (8-9). But when they have shared the ball, they've usually won.
"We're adapting as a team," Rubenstein said. "We're evolving, we're growing and we're finding ways to put the ball in the back of the net."
Rock Bridge junior Haleigh Fancher scored the game's first goal in the 14th minute. The Kewpies countered a minute later, as sophomore Katie Storm redirected a corner kick past freshman goalie Cameron Dorth.
Rubenstein opted to play junior Madison Boyken in net for the second half and overtime sessions, a decision that paid off. Boyken made numerous saves, often running out from the net to secure the ball and keep the team's streak alive.
Dorth has impressed Rubenstein with her composure through her first five games on the varsity level, but Rubenstein had no issue replacing her at halftime because of Boyken's capabilities.
“This program is full of great keepers and I’m confident in both of their abilities,” Rubenstein said.
Wednesday night’s game was the first annual Anna Alioto Memorial Classic, dedicated to former Bruins standout Arianna Alioto, who drowned last fall in a campus pool at Northern Michigan University.
Alioto’s parents Armine and Tony Alioto, and her sister Sophia Alioto were presented a Rock Bridge jersey, scrapbook and soccer balls signed by both teams in a pregame ceremony. The family presented the victorious Bruins with a trophy after the game.
Hickman coach Tony Gragnani said Wednesday was a special occasion, given the tribute to Alioto, but that didn’t change the sting of the outcome.
“It’s a loss to your rival,” Gragnani said. “I understand the circumstances and everything like that, but I think that after getting to know the family a little bit, they wanted us to come out here and play hard.”
Rubenstein said he was glad to get the win, but that Wednesday night’s game went beyond the scoreboard.
“For two rival teams to come together and create a game like this, that’s really special,” Rubenstein said. “I think it speaks volumes about players on both teams and the community at large.”
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