Bruins ride talent, experience to state tournament


RBHS soccer players meet with fellow students after triumphing against Ozark High School on Nov. 5 in the state quarterfinal matchup. Behind head coach Wittenborn, the Bruins are hoping for a stellar performance in the Final Four matchup against Rockhurst on Oct. 11. Photo by Yousuf El-Jayyousi

Faaris Khan

[dropcap size=”4″]O[/dropcap]ne could say that RBHS sports have a knack for reaching high altitudes. Many teams, such as girls tennis, girls golf, cross country and others, consistently reach the state level in their respective sports, and sometimes even bring home a state title.
For the soccer team, however, even competing at the state level has been a relatively uncommon thing — until now. Recently, the Bruins’ efforts throughout the regular season and the postseason have landed them in a prime position: the Final Four.
The Bruins found success early, but struggled in the middle of the season. Despite entering the postseason with the worst record in the district tournament, RBHS won two overtime games against rivals Hickman and Smith-Cotton High School to capture the district title, including a penalty kick thriller against the latter. The Bruins then defeated Lee’s Summit West (LSW) and Ozark in the sectional and quarterfinal rounds, respectively, to reach the Final Four.
“Our team plays as a unit, picking each other and staying positive with one another. We defend fiercely and have guys find a way to score big goals when we need them,” head coach Scott Wittenborn said. “I think our preparation, hard work through adversity, and comradery are the keys to our success this postseason.”
Now, the Bruins are looking for a win against nationally-ranked Rockhurst High School in the state semifinal game on Oct. 11.

“Our focus has been to compete in every game, and simply find a way to win.” Scott Wittenborn, head coach”

With this in mind, senior midfielder and team captain Drew Stanowski knows how big of a challenge this will be for RBHS.  
“We will be focused and locked in all week in preparation for this game,” Stanowski said. “We know that they are a great team, and we are going to have to play one of our best games to beat them.”
If RBHS defeats Rockhurst, they will advance to the state championship game and face either Christian Brothers College High School (CBC) or Francis Howell North, both extremely talented teams who can give the Bruins fits come game time.  
“Both of those teams in the other bracket are really strong teams. I’d give the upper hand to CBC but both of those teams will be solid,” junior midfielder Johnny Klein said. “I’m just gonna continue to play for the other guys and hopefully we can win this thing.”
In the midst of such competitiveness, however, is an emotional time for the team as well. With the next two games being the final ones for the season, the senior-led team has realized that these are the final moments in which the Bruins, many of which have been playing together for years, will be able to play together for RBHS. Many players, including senior goalkeeper Wilson Fitzgerald, hope to find inspiration within such emotions.  
“It’s bittersweet because I’m proud of how far we have come as a group but at the same time I am sad it’s almost over,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that will give us extra motivation because these will be the last two games any of us ever play together.”
With many excited about how the state tournament will play out, Wittenborn remains confident of his team’s passion and talent.
“Our focus has been to compete in every game, and simply find a way to win,” Wittenborn said. “That means just being first to a ball in the box, defending relentlessly when the ball is in the box, and just finding a way to win the close games.  It’s one of the last things I say to the team before each game…that ‘great teams find a way.’”
Do you believe the team can bring home the title? Let us know in the comments below.