According to Athletic Director Steve Levingston, first-year coach Kelly Gates knew from the beginning of the Rock Bridge Bruins’ soccer season that her team had a chance to be very competitive.
A district title helped add credibility to Gates’ assumption. Strong leadership from upperclassmen including seven seniors and five juniors, and having a large group of underclassmen (six freshmen and four sophomores) to learn from them proved a big advantage for the Bruins.
However, Tuesday night’s 2-0 sectionals loss against the St. Joseph Academy Angels (15-6-1) brought an end to the Bruins (11-7-5) season. Angels sophomore forward Becky Handley scored the first goal of the game on Lady Bruins goalkeeper Katherine Harry less than one minute into the first half, with freshman forward Jennifer Hummert scoring the second and final goal.
According to senior Rachael Dillon, next season could prove to be just as successful overall for Rock Bridge.
“Upcoming seniors and juniors are just as strong,” Dillon said. “When every senior comes to that position, they step it up.”
Dillon plans to try to walk-on to the Florida State University soccer team next year, and she had some advice for the upcoming Bruins players.
“Push it hard and keep the intensity up,” Dillon said. “Let’s not make it another seven years before we get another district title. Let’s make it back to back.”
Levingston recognized the support the upperclassmen had on the Bruins team, and has no doubt that that support is what will help the team in the long run.
“We had some very solid senior leadership,” Levingston said. “It is always difficult when seniors leave, but they have been a positive influence and that will make for an easy transition.”
Sophomore Rachel Rutter spent last year on the junior varsity team and this year on the varsity.
“This season, we came out ready to work. We worked on errors with our runs and defensive formations,” Rutter said. “But next year’s juniors and seniors are going to have to step it up.”
Along with learning different formations to switch things up a bit, and a different perspective from a new head coach, one major thing also attributed to the succussful season.
“The girls were very close,” Gates said. “Communication on and off the field was very good and that is an important asset to have.”