The Rolla boys soccer team has had a busy week against some tough competition in the Pacific Tournament. The Bulldogs finished off the tournament against Seckman in the third place game on Thursday, Aug. 31 and recorded their second shutout of the tournament in a 2-0 win.
Rolla came out of the gates firing, scoring their first goal of the game in the third minute of the game. Carson Arnold dumped the ball down field for what looked like an easy play for Seckman keeper Trent Haegele. That easy play turned into an easy goal when Haegele overcommitted on the ball and whiffed, leaving Jayson Ross will the ball and an empty net. He tapped it in to give the Bulldogs a 1-0.
Ross didn't play much of the game after that after his hamstring tightened up. After coming out of the game a few minutes after the goal, he went in again to test his leg, but came out again and stayed on the bench for the rest of the game.
The offense wasn't done yet, however, despite losing their leading scorer of the tournament. The Bulldogs scored their second goal of the game in the 16th minute on another assist by Arnold. The junior midfielder launched the ball towards the top of the keeper zone, where Jarret Gabriele collided with Haegle after heading the ball in for a goal.
After the Rolla goal, Seckman turned their intensity up to 11. They made a couple of strong runs at the net, but the Rolla defense and Drew Blair stood strong and held on to their 2-0 lead at the half.
Rolla made a handful of offensive runs, but couldn't convert on a third goal. As the game continued, the Bulldogs started to run out of gas. Seckman controlled the ball for most of the half, as the games started to catch up with Rolla. The Bulldogs managed to fight through the lack of energy and held strong defensively to finish off a 2-0 win.
Blair recorded his second shutout of the season and the 27th of his career. The senior captain is now nine shutouts away from setting a new school record. Blair was named to the All-Tournament team with his co-captain Nick Janke.
Head coach Mike Howard was glad his team got out to a hot start. Losing Jayson Ross, who scored four goals during the three game tournament, was quite a blow because the Bulldogs were tired enough as it is after a great game against Eureka, who is ranked sixth in Class 4 in the season's first coach's poll, the night before.
"It's a good thing we started fast," said Howard. "We get that early goal and we lose Jayson Ross which is huge for us. We're tired anyway and we don't have a lot of depth to start with, now we're trying to shuffle people around and you're playing against a very good Seckman team.
"But our kids found a way to grind it out and get a win. That's good," continued the Rolla head coach. "When you can beat a good soccer team when you're tired, it's good for us."
The Pacific Tournament is always a good barometer of talent to kick off the season. Coach Howard thinks the Eureka game in particular showed what his team will be capable of this season.
"I think we showed last night the kind of team we can be. The game against Eureka was what I wanted to see. Where are we at compared to the best teams in the state? And I feel like we played with them. We had as much of the ball as they did," said Howard. "That didn't show today, we just had nothing left. We knew that was the way it was going to be, but I just take away that we're going to be a pretty strong soccer team, we just have to continue to get better every day."
The end of the Pacific Tournament matched up perfectly with the release of the first Missouri State Coaches' Poll, which saw the Bulldogs ranked sixth in Class 3. One other Ozark Conference rival cracked the top 10, as Glendale is ranked fourth, beating out the Bulldogs by five points.
Rolla will open their Ozark Conference schedule when they host Parkview for their home opener on Tuesday, Sept. 5.