The Rolla soccer team (16-3) traveled to Pacific for a matchup on Saturday, Oct. 7. It was a monumental game for senior keeper Drew Blair, who recorded his 35th career shutout to tie the school record set by Ryan Farrar from 2000 to 2003 in the 2-0 victory.
The Bulldogs had an interesting matchup at Pacific thanks in large part to some questionable officiating. Rather than having a head official and two side judges, the game had two officials that were positioned like side judges. That led to officials attempting to make calls on plays across the pitch from them. The officiating set up questionable chances for both teams, but defense won the day for most of the first half. Rolla finally broke through in the 30th minute when Mohamed Alamaldiem sent a pass up to Evan Moore, who then found Jarret Gabriele on the back post for an easy goal. Rolla took that 1-0 lead into the half.
Rolla's offense looked much better as the game continued, as they started to find the right attack pattern. They also had some great chances on restarts. The Bulldogs had a series of corners in the second half and they converted in the 61st minute. Gabe Stanislawski went for a short kick on the near post, but the wind carried it a little further than intended. Luckily, Alamaldiem was perfectly positioned in the middle of the keeper zone, right in front of the net. He settled the ball and tapped it in with the keeper well out of position.
As the half continued, the officiating went in Pacific's favor. The Indians made a series of runs which also featured several restarts. That led to a busy half for Blair in goal, especially with blustering winds making free kicks and corners difficult to judge. One of the biggest challenges to the shutout came in the final 10 minutes, when Blair turned away a breakway with seven minutes to play. Blair forged through attempt after attempt in the second half and managed to earn the shutout. The shutout was his 10th of the season on top of being the 35th of his career.
"It feels special," said the All-State keeper. "It's something that I've been setting for since freshman year, I've always had my sights on it. It feels good to finally have a grasp on it."
Blair said he was also kind of glad the tied record came in a game where he had to work a little bit. It means a little more than getting a shutout in a 10-0 win.
"It definitely feels a lot better than if I had won it against Waynesville or Lebanon," said Blair. "It was nice to earn it."
But the Rolla keeper doesn't plan on settling with a tie for the school record. He plans on setting a new record very soon and tacking on as many shutouts as he can before he graduates.
"Yeah, I'm really not wanting this record to be broken by the time I'm done with it," said Blair.
Head coach Mike Howard only had positive things to say about his senior keeper.
"I'm so proud of him and he's a great kid. He's worked very very hard," said coach Howard. "His freshman year, we only won eight games. So you think about that, setting the school record over his four years is a pretty good accomplishment, especially for the schedule that we play."
The shutout is just another symptom of Rolla's fantastic season. The Bulldogs have just three losses, one of which coming from one of the top teams in the state in Glendale on a rainy night last Wednesday. Rolla has been busy over the last few weeks and doesn't really have a chance to slow down. They've got two conference games this week before hosting the Thomas Whitefield Tournament this weekend.
"We're 16-3 at this point of our season and with the schedule we play, that's amazing," said Howard. "The kids are playing well and they're finding ways to win. The last two games haven't been the prettiest games that we've ever played, but we'll take the wins and try to get another streak going here going into the postseason."
The Bulldogs will be on the road for both of their conference games this week. Blair's next chance for a shutout will come on a trip to Camdenton on Tuesday, Oct. 10.