Rock Bridge soccer falls short to Glendale in quarterfinals

Saturday, November 16, 2013 | 7:48 p.m. CST; updated 8:36 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 16, 2013

COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge soccer coach Alex Nichols walked away from the last postgame huddle of the season. "Two questions," he told reporters kindly. "That's all I've got time for."

Maybe he didn't want to talk. Or maybe, in the end, there just wasn't much that could be said.

The Bruins (21-5-1) were stunned 1-0 Saturday afternoon on their own field by Glendale (17-8-1) in the Class 3 quarterfinals. For the first time in four years, Nichols and his squad were not moving on to the state semifinals.

All season long, players had hoped for the chance to make it back to those semifinals, to outdo the back-to-back-to-back third-place finishes and the bitterness each one left. But their finish was here. And here they were, the game over, sitting on the turf, knees tucked up to hide their disbelieving faces.

What was there to say?

"It feels exactly the same as it has at state," senior Jacob Kovarik said. "There's nothing to describe it except heart-broken. It's an awful, awful feeling."

With the game scoreless, Glendale's Ruell Israel Chappell fired a shot from about 25 yards out on the far left sideline with just over five minutes remaining. Senior Rock Bridge goalie Greg Kelly leaped high as the ball sailed toward the right corner of the net.

Somebody, a teammate or an opponent, he wasn't sure, bumped his left side, ruining his straight shot up into the air for the grab.

And that was it. That was the game. And what was there to say?

"You can't really make excuses or anything about it," Kelly said. "It just happened, and we gotta live with it."

In the 32nd minute, Kelly corralled a save and booted the ball to the other side of the field, where Connor Blitz was dashing ahead of defenders. Blitz kicked, and Glendale's keeper dove, his finger tips were just enough to sway the shot into the left bar.

Near the start of the second half, Kovarik placed the ball perfectly to Blitz near the goal box. Blitz's header looked just as perfect, but it crashed into the cross bar.

Trying furiously to tie the game with less than two minutes left, the Bruins' Tarnue Tyler maneuvered past defenders. Tyler carved his way to the goal until the last Glendale player in his way was the goalie. Tyler juked by the goalie so that the net was free.

A minute and 31 seconds hung on the clock when his shot flew too many inches to the left. He stood still and stared at the goal. He put his hands over his head.

That was the Bruins' last chance, and they had many, many others before it. What was there to say?

"I can't understand," Kovarik said. "I can't think of a more deserving group of guys other than the guys sitting over there right now."

On the sidelines, they were consoling each other.

What was there to say?

"We had 25 goal-scoring opportunities. It should've been a five-to-nothing game," Nichols said.

He shook his head. His team that had been dominant was now crushed on the sidelines. He called them "an incredible group that fell short."

What was there to say?

"I still do not understand the full game of soccer and why things happen the way they do."

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