RBHS seeks victory over DeSmet

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Ji-Ho Lee

As it is every year, El Clasicomo, the soccer match between RBHS and rival Hickman High School, was a highly anticipated game. In the first meeting between the two teams, however, the final score, however, was not as easily anticipated, as the Bruins dominated the Kewpies, 4-0.
Three weeks later, the two rivals clashed again, this time on the north side of town. The change in setting had no impact on the result as the Bruins triumphed yet again with a 2-0 victory.
Despite the success against their crosstown rivals, RBHS has not experienced the same achievement when facing out-of-state teams. The Bruins fell 2-1 and 3-1 against two of the top teams in Kansas, Olathe East and Olathe Northwest, respectively.
“We basically took those games as a reality check,” senior centerback Cole Abram said. “We just kept our heads up and came into practices ready to work and knew that we had to focus.”
In response, the Bruins, led by head coach Scott Wittenborn, used a new formation with four defensive backs rather than three; a formation that debuted in a 5-0 drubbing against Battle High School.
The change in formation made a huge difference in our style of play and defensive shape,” senior captain and goalkeeper Wilson Fitzgerald said. “It helped us become more defensive minded and improves our possession.”
The Bruins looked to improve on other weaknesses following the Olathe tournament, most prevalently improving possession around the field.
At times our weaknesses this season have been maintaining possession of the ball,” Wittenborn said. “But this is something that we have worked hard to improve and have gotten much better at as the season has progressed.”
Senior midfielder Parker Fancher cited the team’s mentality during practices and communication as other struggles.
“Communication is an aspect of the game that we work on in practice,” Fancher said. “Also, we don’t play with lots of intensity at practice so in games, when teams are right on our backs when we have the ball and every single touch, they’re right there, we aren’t used to playing under those circumstances.”  
Aside from the two losses in Kansas, the Bruins have had a successful season, boasting a 5-4-2 record against stout competition. RBHS’s other loss came in penalty kicks against the third ranked team in Missouri, Marquette, and the Bruins tied Quincy, which was ranked 16th in the nation at the time.
“We’ve been in really close games with top-tier teams and now it’s time to start getting results,” junior midfielder Johnny Klein said. “Marquette and Quincy are two great teams. We’ve been in those positions and we can get better and close the game out and start getting wins.”
Senior midfielder and team captain Drew Stanowski points to an impressive work rate that keeps the Bruins competitive in games.
We hardly ever get out worked in a game by our opponents,” Stanowski said. “We can build on this by keeping this mindset up all year and not letting it slip away.”
The Bruins have also excelled defensively, as Fitzgerald has kept six clean sheets throughout the season. Combined with their success in controlling balls in the air and set pieces, the Bruins look to carry their strengths into the home game against a talented DeSmet team tonight.
“Last year we lost 1-0 in overtime to DeSmet,” Stanowski said. “We will prepare for this game just as hard as all the rest of them. Hopefully the home field advantage will get us a different result against them this year.”
Following the game against DeSmet, the Bruins compete in two tournaments and four games, including district rivals Jefferson City and Smith-Cotton, before entering the district tournament and postseason play.
We just need to play like every game is our last,” Klein said. “One fluke game and your season is done. I think we are capable of going really far in the postseason. We just need to buckle down and focus on every game.”