Soccer nabs second place at Gateway Classic

Daphne Yu

Seniors defender Nick White (left) and wing midfielder Thomas McCarney (right) dribbles the ball away from Hickman’s midfielder senior Numrom Kuol at the Hickman-RBHS game Sept. 26. Photo by Daphne Yu
After arriving in O’Fallon, Il., late Thursday night, the boys soccer team was ready to fight its way to the top in the Gateway City Soccer Classic tournament.
Set to play three games in the span of two days, they started with an opener against Illinois O’Fallon High School Friday night. As one of the only three teams in the nation to beat the Bruin boys last year, they anticipated a tough battle on the field from the O’Fallon Panthers.
“We came into the game expecting [O’Fallon] to be a very good team,” junior striker and center midfielder Salim Gumati said. “But they were not what they were last year. They were not very good.”
Instead, Bruins and Panthers were able to score the highest net goals of the entire tournament – 12 total – with the RBHS boys scoring eight. Gumati himself scored three goals.
Freshman striker and wing midfielder Tarnue Tyler, freshman Brett Bales, senior defender Nick White and senior center midfielders Eli Sherman and Cooper Smith all scored one goal each.
While scoring eight goals in any game is a rare event, Gumati said, the boys played amazing offense and great soccer Friday night.
With one victory in the bag, the boys were one step closer to their goal for the tournament.
“We expected to win the tournament and make a statement to the nation that we are the real team the people should talk about,” Gumati said. “Along with that, [the tournament] was a mental boost. Being successful in this tournament would say tons about us as a team.”
The RBHS boys had a chance the next morning to make a statement when they stepped onto the field at 11:30 to play Rietz Memorial, the 12th ranked team in the nation. However, the national ranking did not affect pre-game preparation for the team. The boys prepared themselves the way they always have, Gumati said. In their minds, they wanted to make a statement and were only motivated, not impeded, by the idea of a challenge.
The game started out in stark contrast to the one the night before; at halftime, the score was still 0-0. Finally, in the second half, Tyler scored the only goal in the game and Rock Bridge leaped through the second hoop of the tournament with a win.
Senior defender Kyle Tonniees (left) and junior center midfielder and striker Salim Gumati goes after the ball at the Hickman-RBHS soccer game Sept. 26. Photo by Daphne Yu
“Rietz Memorial just didn’t look very good when we played them,” Gumati said. “I feel like we dominated them in every aspect. The only reason we didn’t score more was our fault. But we played another good game and came out with a good win. The only thing we should work on, seeing that game, is just working on swinging the ball through the middle and switching points of attack.”
Less than six hours after defeating the Rietz Memorial Tigers, the Bruins again stepped on the field, this time with the championship title at stake. They now faced Marquette Jesuit high school, the ninth ranked team in the nation.
Although the boys were mentally and physically tired, that was “no excuse” for poor performance since most of the boys have had to deal with dual games their whole soccer career and other tournaments, Gumati said.
However, the Bruins closed the tournament with a win. In the first half, Bruins did not score, and, instead, Marquette Jesuit took a 3-0 lead. In the second half, RBHS let it yet another goal; but, in the last ten minutes, Tyler was able to put one in the net, bringing the final score up to a 1-4 loss.
While the team left with a respectable second place finish, it all went wrong when the boys began the match missing something crucial to them every game.
“Not to take anything away from Marquette Jesuit because they were an amazing team, but we started the game soft and weak,” Gumati said, “and that really set the tone of the game in their favor. We pride [ourselves] on toughness and we didn’t show it in the first half. And we gave up three goals.”
It may seem the boys ended the tournament in defeat, but they take away from the day something that will drive them further down the road to the state championship.
First, “we will always be tough from here on out all 80 minutes,” Gumati said. “Second, it’s just that we will take this feeling and use it as motivation to never feel that way again.”
By Daphne Yu