The high school soccer regular season ended this past weekend, and now Columbia’s teams kick off postseason play in the district tournaments this week.
The three public schools — Rock Bridge, Battle and Hickman — face off in the Class 4 District 9 tournament with Jefferson City at Battle on Tuesday, while Tolton began postseason play with a 8-0 win over Stover in the Class 1 District 4 semifinals Monday. Below is a breakdown of the postseason outlook for all four of Columbia’sthe town’steams:
Rock Bridge (20-4)
The Bruins are the top team in town behind a fast-paced attack that produces a ton of goals. That attack is led by the junior duo of Lucas Godon (18 goals and 10 assists) and Jeremiah Johnson (13 goals and eight assists).
Preston Fancher, an all-region player last season, has been a rock in the midfield, with first-year varsity goalkeeper Cooper Deneke leading a back line that has improved as the season has gone on.
The Bruins are one of the favorites to get to the state final four in St. Louis after falling in the state quarterfinals on a bicycle kick last season, but the Bruins will have a tough matchup in the district with Jefferson City.
Scott Wittenborn’s team is the No. 2 seed in its district after being upset 2-0 by the Jays on Oct. 8. The game was back-and-forth, but a defensive error by the Bruins and a quick counter attack by Jefferson City was the difference in a game that determined the district’s top seed.
Rock Bridge will likely get a second crack at the Jays in the district title game, with both teams heavily favored in the semifinals. The Bruins have won seven of their last eight since that game, with the only loss coming at the hands of 23-1 Fort Zumwalt South.
Rock Bridge is ranked fifth in the Missouri soccer coaches poll and will be slightly favored over 13th-ranked Jefferson City.
Prediction: Rock Bridge avenges its loss in October with a 3-2 win in the district championship, but the Bruins fall again in the state quarterfinals.
The Trailblazers have an underwhelming record, but that figure is deceiving due to the strength of schedule of Chuck Register’s team has dealt with.It has played a schedule almost entirely made up of larger schools, including wins over Battle and Hickman.
The win over Hickman, a classic on Sept. 30 that ended with a couple of clutch saves by Tolton goalkeeper Blake Hinerman in extra time and in a penalty shootout, showed that the Class 1 school can play up to stronger competition.
Tolton is led by attackers Tyler Stevens (11 goals and three assists in the regular season) and Lael Haile (seven goals and seven assists), with Holden Petri pulling the strings from midfield.
The team is already in the Class 1 District 4 final after an 8-0 win over Stover on Monday and are the top seed in the title game Thursday.
“We think we’re strong enough to win this district,” Register said.
That would be a historic feat for the Trailblazers, who haven’t won a district title in school history. The team has bowed out in the district title game in each of the past four years, with the last three defeats coming at the hands of Southern Boone in Class 2.
With only eight districts in Class 1, a win in the district title game would put the Trailblazers a game away from the final four in St. Louis. Making it to the state semifinals in the Gateway to the West is the goal for Tolton this postseason.
“The guys have talked about it and that’s our goal this year,” Register said. “We can’t be complacent.”
Prediction: Tolton wins its first district title in program history and makes the state final four, but loses in the semifinals.
The Kewpies are peaking at the right time with five wins in their final six games. Will Ross’ team started the year with a hybrid 4-3-3, but have been reinvigorated since it brought its wingers back into the midfield to make a 4-5-1.
“We were giving up way too many goals,” Ross said. “We wanted to shore up the defense and eliminate goals. We’ve been scoring regardless, and we’ve continued to score. As it gets colder in the playoffs sometimes a 1-0 game gets the job done.”
The change came after three-straight losses at the Rock Bridge Invitational on Oct. 11-12. and has helped Hickman on both sides of the pitch. The team has conceded only five goals in its final six games after conceding 48 in the other 18 games. The improved defense and possession helped an offense score 23 goals in the final six games as well.
Kavannah Bollinger (eight goals and six assists) leads the charge for the Kewpies on the wing after previously playing with the STLFC Academy. Jordan Ferrao (five goals and three assists) and Leif Kammer (four goals and three assists) make up the rest of the attack for the Kewpies.
Hickman will have a tough task in its district semifinal against cross-town rival Rock Bridge. Rock Bridge beat Hickman 3-1 on Sept. 24, but the Kewpies will try to prove they are a different team since then.
Prediction: Hickman falls 4-2 to Rock Bridge in the district semifinals.
The Spartans took some lumps in coach Tracy Grant’s first year with the program, with only 13 goals in 22 games. The Spartans won only two games in regulation but won three of their four games that went to overtime.
A rebuild will take some time for a program that hasn’t won a playoff game in team history and has yet to have a winning season. The Spartans took a step in the right direction this year with a 3-1 start and have room to grow with only five seniors on the varsity roster.
This year’s team is led by midfielder Brandon Sanchez (two goals and five assists) and attacker Amar Abdegadir (three goals).
Battle has a daunting playoff opener with top-seed Jefferson City, but it hung tough with the Jays in a 3-1 loss Oct. 23. Jefferson City is a team that plays defensively and doesn’t get on the offensive often, which leaves the Jays vulnerable for an upset.
Prediction: Battle falls 2-0 to Jefferson City in the district semifinals.