Boys’ soccer victorious in district semifinal match against Hickman

The+boys+soccer+team+is+20-4+heading+into+the+class+4+district+9+championship+game.+The+Bruins+look+to+avenge+their+regular+season+loss+against+Jefferson+City+High+School+Nov.+7.+%28Photo+by+Ana+Manzano%29

The boys’ soccer team is 20-4 heading into the class 4 district 9 championship game. The Bruins look to avenge their regular season loss against Jefferson City High School Nov. 7. (Photo by Ana Manzano)

Ryan Choe

With a record of 20-4 heading into the district semifinal match Nov. 5, the boys’ soccer team exuded confidence. After winning eight of their last 10 regular season games, the Bruins delivered in the class 4 district 9 semifinal match and came out the victors against local rival Hickman High School (HHS) with a score of 1-0. The Bruins gained their third win against HHS, having already won the teams’ two regular season meetings. The Bruins will play against Jefferson City High School (JCHS) 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at Battle High School for the district championship. 

Leading up to the game, head coach Scott Wittenborn turned to the two regular season matches in order to repeat the areas where the Bruins had the most success against HHS.

“We were looking to play tight defensively on their target forward and try to take him out of the game,” Wittenborn said. “We also wanted to put some combinations together and look for slotted balls in through the back line of their defense.”

The strategy worked well, as the Bruins held their opponents scoreless in part from a string performance by senior goalkeeper Cooper Deneke.

“The game plan was to focus on defense and try to get the ball upfield quick to get the counter attack,” Deneke said. “We didn’t have to make too many adjustments, only a couple up top and in the midfield.”

While the Bruins played a stone wall defense, their offense initially struggled. After the first half, the score was 0-0, causing Wittenborn to make adjustments.

“[Hickman’s] center back [was] phenomenal. He used his speed advantage to chase down [almost] all of our through balls, and he was incredibly aggressive at going and winning the ball for them on their corner kick attempts,” Wittenborn said. “I thought our guys looked to use a little more dribble penetration through the midfield and shorter/quicker combination passes to attack which is how we scored our goal.”

The Bruins’ goal would come in the 44th minute. Senior Preston Fancher drove upfield, putting pressure on the HHS goalkeeper and attempted to score. Fancher’s shot deflected off the goalpost, and junior Wesley Goyette collected and scored amidst the ensuing chaos.

“I honestly didn’t really see what happened on Wesley’s goal because I was so far back, but I was very glad that he was in a position to finish the goal,” Deneke said. “We have worked on crashing the goal after shots, and he did that perfectly. Overall, as a team I thought we played good. We had a lot of chances to score, and I thought we limited their chances a lot. The back line played great throughout the whole game.”

Despite the victory, Wittenborn said he looks to tidy up some of the team’s flaws heading into the district championship on Nov. 7. Wittenborn said luck was a big factor near the end as HHS “gave us everything they had the last five minutes of the game.” Wittenborn said he wasn’t sure if the Bruins did their best to close out the match and hoped to use the Nov. 6 practice to further prepare.

“We have to clean up how we plan to defend corner kicks and our first touch in the middle of the field,” Wittenborn said. “We looked a little rusty from our week and a half break from games, I thought, which I take the blame for not keeping them as sharp as we needed to be.”

Deneke echoed this sentiment, saying he and the team will need to be more active and engaged for their next test against JCHS, who the Bruins lost to in the regular season.

“Next game I want to play more aggressive and make sure that our defense keeps communicating,” Deneke said. “I think that as long as we come out with energy and play our hardest then this is a winnable game for us.”

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