Tuesday was a historic night for Rolla soccer.
With a 3-0 win over Waynesville, head coach Mike Howard became just the second head coach in the history of Missouri High School soccer to win 400 games a boys coach and 400 games as a girls coach. Coach Howard was proud of the accomplishment, but was quick to give credit to all the players he's had in his storied career.
"It's like I told (my players), we've had a lot of great players here over the years and I'm just the lucky guy that got to coach them," said coach Howard. "It's fun, I love my job and hopefully we'll keep on playing some games and doing well."
The win brought Rolla's record on the season to 8-5 and kept their record in the Ozark Conference perfect at 4-0. Between the boys and the girls, Howard now has a record of 835-343-69.
Rolla took a while to get on the board against Waynesville, as the Tigers elected to pack in their defense to take away any scoring chances Rolla might find. After being unable to take advantage of a few good looks in the first half, Rolla finally broke through in the final minute of the first half. The Lady Bulldogs got a free kick just outside the box and Elsa Wise buried a shot in the top right corner to put Rolla up 1-0 at the half.
The Lady Bulldogs continued to dominate after the break. A foul in the box gave Rolla a golden opportunity with a penalty kick in the 67th minute. Just like she has all season, Ryleigh Grommet stepped up and knocked it home to give Rolla a 2-0 lead. Wise followed that with her second goal of the night two minutes later off an assist from Ellie Rodgers to put the game away for good.
Coach Howard has been making adjustments all season to help jump start his offense and he did it again Tuesday night. After the the trio of Ariana and Eliana Stanislawski alongside Mercedez Carpenter led to a four goal effort on Saturday, Howard tried the same group up top. When that did lead to any goals early, she put in Wise to mix things up and it led to two goals. The Rolla head coach loved what he saw out of Wise up top in the win.
"Both goals were great goals. She played far post, which is what we preach all the time and it was good to get some separation," said coach Howard. "No matter how much you're controlling the game, if you're only up 1-0 it's always a scary situation. Our girls are getting pretty good at managing games"
The key for coach Howard is seeing his team improve with every game and he's definitely seen that.
"It's like I told them, we've won eight of our last 10 games after starting 0-3 and the only two teams that have beat us are state ranked teams, so we're getting better," said the Rolla head coach. "We're playing well right now, but there's things we have to work on obviously."
The game was also Ariana Stanislawski's Senior Spotlight. Coach Howard has enjoyed watching her grow as a soccer player these last four years.
"The improvement in her game from last year to this year has been phenomenal," said coach Howard. "She's a great kid and she brings so much energy and skill to our team and she's finally playing assertive and taking people on and playing with some confidence. It's made a big difference for us."
The Lady Bulldogs will stay busy this week with another Ozark Conference matchup on Thursday, April 19. They'll host Camdenton for what should be a very interesting matchup.
"Camdenton scares me, I mean they've got that girl up top that scored three goals on us last year," said coach Howard. "We're going to have to contain her and hopefully we can get a goal. That's the thing with us. We can create opportunities, we just sometimes struggle to finish them."