The Rock Bridge girls’ soccer team is finally starting to play like coach Marc VanDover has wanted them to all season.
The Bruins are riding a four-game unbeaten streak into to-
night’s 6:15 game against Smith-Cotton at Cosmopolitan Park.
After their 1-0-2 performance in the Smith-Cotton tournament, which included a 1-1 tie at home against Quincy-Notre Dame on Tuesday, VanDover said the Bruins are working well as a cohesive unit for the first time.
“We hadn’t really started playing together until last weekend,” he said. “We played well in the Smith-Cotton tournament and it carried over into our game against Quincy (Notre Dame).”
Days before their turnaround performance, the Bruins lost 8-1 at home to defending 2A state champion St. Teresa’s Academy of Kansas City, currently ranked No. 20 in the NSCAA/adidas national high school poll. The Stars controlled the game from the beginning, finding open teammates with the ball and moving up the field seemingly at will.
Junior defender and tri-captain Beth Staelens said playing such a good team showed the Bruins what they needed to work on.
Junior midfielder and tri-captain Rachel Drennan said that instead of hanging their heads after the loss to St. Teresa’s, the Bruins examined what worked for the Stars and tried to incorporate it into their own game.
“It was a reality check,” Drennan said. “We stepped back and looked at what they did well and decided if we want to be as good as they are, we have to pass to feet.”
VanDover agrees, saying losing by seven goals does not outweigh the positives of the experience gained from playing difficult teams.
“You get better by playing better teams,” VanDover said. “You can’t simulate the speed and toughness of a real good team in practice.”
Even though their other game against a nationally-ranked team, No. 8 St. Thomas Aquinas of Overland Park, Kan., was cancelled because of rain on Saturday, the Bruins still have a rough road ahead before district play starts the week of May 15. After tonight’s contest the girls will meet rival Hickman, ranked No. 13 in the most recent Missouri State High School Soccer Coaches Association poll on Wednesday. The Bruins close the regular season May 10 with a make-up date at No. 8 Fort Zumwalt South.
Senior midfielder and tri-captain Rachel Mends said the Bruins can’t worry about their opponents, and need to focus instead on what they, themselves need to do to succeed.
“We just have to focus on soccer, the game itself, and not get intimidated,” she said. “We can’t go in thinking we’re gonna get smashed, we just need to play our game.”