Soccer begins district title hunt tonight

Photo+by+Ashley+Tanner.

Photo by Ashley Tanner.

Ji-Ho Lee

This week, the RBHS men’s soccer team embarks on a journey with a heartbreakingly simple principle: win and move on, lose and go home. This expedition, known as the playoffs, is unforgiving for most and gratifying for few.
The Bruins’ run to a district championship begins on Oct. 26 as they take on Jefferson City in their first match. The Bruins fell to the Jays by a 2-0 count two weeks ago. The loss to JC was one of the few blemishes for RBHS during the regular season.
The Bruins finished with a 14-6-1 record in the season, with all losses at the hands of ranked or out of state teams.
“We’ve accomplished a bunch this season, right from the very beginning,” senior center-back and co-captain Jonah Lage said. “We’ve definitely had some downfalls this season with some of our key players getting injured during the season, but we’ve adapted and adjusted to work with what we had.”
The most notable injury was the loss of starting goalkeeper, Wilson Fitzgerald, who suffered a broken hand in a loss against Hickman.  The Bruins, however, were able to overcome adversities through their speed and defense.
Most teams are not prepared to play with the speed at which we pressure the ball and many coaches have commented on just how hard it is to break through our back line,” head coach Scott Wittenborn said.
Another key component to the Bruins’ success has been the team chemistry. The roster is chalked full of upperclassmen, most of whom started playing together at a young age.
We work well as a team and we stay together and everyone wants each other to be successful so we do whatever it takes to make that happen,” senior midfielder and co-captain Brett Bales said. 
Despite these strengths, the team has struggled in certain areas, as well.
“Our biggest weakness is winning set pieces,” senior co-captain and All-American Tarnue Tyler said.
Tyler leads the talented, experienced Bruin roster in goals this year. Despite his success, Wittenborn is cautious to praise particular individuals.
“We constantly talk about how a soccer game is never won by one player,” Wittenborn said. “In a sport where one play can cost you a game, it is important for every member of our team to being playing at their peak level going into the post-season.”
Heading into the postseason, the Bruins look to overcome their struggles and peak as a team in the playoffs. Holding the second seed in the district tournament, the Bruins face the third seeded Jays who carry a 10-7-3 record.
“[Hickman] being the defending district champions, we’d love to be able to retake that title from them,” Wittenborn said. “It is important, however, that we not overlook Jefferson City as they have had a strong season.”
The players are similarly cautious to not overlook their first round match. But they have goals of their own in mind for the postseason.
We are looking to make a long run at state and we believe that we have a team that can do that,” Bales said. “But first, we have to worry about our game against [Jefferson City] in the first round of districts.”