The Rolla soccer team made another trip up to Camdenton on Wednesday, Oct. 25 to face off against Helias for the Class 3 District 9 Championship. The two needed overtime to determine a winner in their regular season matchup, but the Bulldogs took care of business in regulation this time around in a 4-1 victory.
Helias came out of the gates strong with a couple of offensive runs, eventually scoring the first goal of the game in the 11th minute. After the Crusaders worked the ball into the Rolla keeper zone, the Bulldogs couldn't clear it out and Arris Pardolas snuck a shot just past a diving Drew Blair to give Helias a 1-0 lead. Rolla took a while to get on the board because Helias packed defenders into the keeper zone and the Bulldogs couldn't get the looks they wanted in the middle of the pitch.
After Helias scored, something clicked for Rolla. According to Jarret Gabriele, the Bulldogs knew they were the better team, they just had to start playing like it.
"I think it was just a part of us knowing we're the better team and we can't let the season end there," said the junior forward. "We had to step it up if we're gonna keep going."
And step it up they did. Rolla was finally able to break through on a free kick by Carson Arnold. He served it up and Nick Janke found the ball with his head and bounced it over the outstretched hands of Helias keeper Elijah Korenberg to tie the game at one. After that came an onslaught of cards. First Jayson Ross drew a foul in the 30th minute, which led to a card for Helias' Elliot Lammers. Soon after, Evan Moore drew another foul, which led to a card for Grant Mengwasser, but Moore wasn't able to keep his head and he was given a card of his own. Rolla got the fourth and final card of the half in the 38th minute when Jacob Lortz misplayed a ball and took out a Crusader in an attempt to recover to earn a yellow card. After all the cards, the half ended in a 1-1 tie.
Rolla controlled the final 20 minutes of the first half and the second half thanks to some great aggressive play. When playing a physical team like Helias, you can't back down and Rolla stood strong, drawing fouls and winning balls. It didn't take long for Rolla to take the lead, as Gabriele found the back of the net two minutes into the half off an assist by Jayson Ross. Six minutes later, Janke knocked in his second header, this time off a corner kick by Gabe Stanislawski. The Bulldogs iced the game in the 60th minute when Caleb Dobry found Gabriele for the fourth goal of the game. Rolla ran out the clock on the final 20 minutes, bringing in their bench players to finish off the last five minutes of the contest in a 4-1 win.
Janke, who scored on two headers in the win, said that Rolla's mindset was the key to the victory. After scoring the first goal, Helias played not to lose, but the Bulldogs played to win.
"Really it looked like they were trying to hold on to the game and after we started dominating, I knew it was going to be a good result for us," said the senior defender. "We just started dominating in the middle and attacking. We were controlling the ball the whole second half of the first half."
Janke knew he would be a target on Rolla's restarts and he had a lot of Crusaders to fight through, but he got great passes from Arnold and Stanislawski to set up his 10th and 11th goals of the season.
"They were definitely marking tight. On the second goal, I think there was three people there in my vicinity, but I got around them all," said the All-State defender. "It was a great serve right in front of everyone and that helped."
Outside of the restarts, Gabriele said the key to the upgraded offense was better passing. Once Rolla settled in, it was game over.
"Once we started passing around and playing our game, things started opening up for me," said Gabriele. "They switched to three guys up top and three guys back and that really opened it up for me and Jayson to get through."
Rolla will face off in a rematch against Glendale, who ranks just above the fourth place Bulldogs in second place in Class 3. Glendale edged the Bulldogs in the rain on the Rolla football field 2-1 in overtime earlier this month, but Gabriele thinks it will be different this time around.
"This time it's different. We've got it this time," said Gabriele. "We want to get to the quarterfinals."
Head coach Mike Howard, who won his 28th District Championship with this win, was proud of the fight that his team showed after going behind by a goal. This is a team that just keeps fighting to stay in games, which shows in their 22-4 record.
"They've done that all year, we've been behind several times and this team just competes for 80 minutes. Maybe it's we're young and we don't know any better," said Howard with a chuckle. "I'm super proud of this team, they come in and they compete for 80 minutes and the result is what the result is, they don't get caught up in winning or losing."
Coach Howard pointed out that Glendale was down a player when they scored the game-wining goal the first time around, so he knows his players will need to play like they did on Wednesday to come out with a better result.
"They beat us with 10 players the first time we played them, so we've got our work cut out for us," said coach Howard. "They're a very dangerous group...they're ranked number two in the state for a reason."
The Sectional matchup will be played in Rolla at 5 p.m. on Halloween.