The undefeated Rock Bridge soccer team will go a long way this week to test itself.
After winning the Parkway Tournament on Friday and Saturday in St. Louis, the Bruins (9-0-1) will return there for the 50th annual Catholic Youth Counsel-Bob Guelker Memorial Tournament.
Rock Bridge, the only team from outside St. Louis to ever make the semifinals of the tournament, will be the top seed in its four-team pool.
The Bruins play defending Class 2 state champion Duchesne (6-2) tonight at Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in Fenton. They then play Lindbergh (3-4-1) on Tuesday and Oakville (5-2-1) on Wednesday.
If the seeds hold, Rock Bridge could play the Christian Brothers College high school team in the semifinals on Friday. The Cadets are ranked No. 1 in the nation by studentsports.com and No. 5 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
If the Bruins reach the tournament final, there is the possibility of a rematch with Chaminade; a team Rock Bridge beat 2-0 in both teams season opener.
“How great would it be to beat both CBC and Chaminade in the same season,” Rock Bridge coach David Graham said.
CBC and Chaminade are the top two large schools in St. Louis and the top seeds in their pools. St. Dominic, the top small school in St. Louis, is seeded No. 1 in its pool.
“It would be awesome to go in there and win in the 50th annual tournament,” Graham said. “We come from the farthest away and we would love to make a name for ourselves.”
The Bruins will make the four-hour round trip to and from St. Louis each night they play in the tournament. They played three games in two days at the Parkway Tournament, winning the event for the third straight year.
“We were tired mentally during that second game (on Saturday),” Graham said. “Physically we were fine, but our touch was off and we had no focus.”
The Bruins allowed an own goal in a 2-1 win against Parkway Central after beating Parkway North 7-0 and Parkway West 8-0.
Rock Bridge has a two-week gap between home games and will play up to eight games in nine days in St. Louis. Graham doesn’t think all the travel will have a negative effect on the senior-dominated Bruins.
“I asked them before the season if they wanted to play in this tournament again and they all said yes,” he said. “They committed to this at the beginning and they’ll stick with it. It’s pretty early in the season, so they shouldn’t be too worn down.”
Rock Bridge usually plays a difficult schedule with much travel, but this year, the Bruins have also dropped their affiliation with the North Central Missouri Conference. It withdrew from the NCMC because the conference decided the school had an unfair advantage in some sports. Helias also left the conference this year.
“It’s kind of a catch-22 for us because some of the other (soccer) teams are still pretty good. We would still like to play some of them,” Graham said.
The Bruins have played in Quincy, Ill. and will go to Washington, Mo. in addition to their games in St. Louis.
Graham said the travel has strengthened the bond his players have with each other and the coaching staff.
“They have a good time,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to be around them because they enjoy being around each other. This is an egoless team.”