The Rolla soccer team (8-7) finished off a busy week with the Rolla Invitational on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28-29. The Bulldogs were gassed after a pair of double overtime games earlier in the week, which led to a pair of losses on Friday night to Republic and Ozark. Rolla managed to bounce back on Saturday with a 5-1 win over Southern Boone to take second place in the tournament.
The Bulldogs were missing a bit of pep in their step on Friday after a busy week. It didn't help that they were also without midfielder Mohammad Alamaldiem, who was out sick for both of the games on Friday. As a result, the Bulldogs struggled to find scoring chances against Republic to open the tournament Friday afternoon. Despite controlling the time of possession, Rolla couldn't find the back of the net. Republic scored in the 10th minute thanks to a big cross in the keeper zone, which let the Tigers sneak a shot past Erique Cezar in net. The Rolla offense failed to find the back of the net in the remaining 70 minutes, falling 1-0 to open the tournament.
Head coach Mike Howard made some changes in their second game against Ozark, playing their younger players for most of the second half. While that didn't pay off Friday night, it did give a lot of the Bulldog starters a chance to have fresh legs on Saturday. The Bulldogs scored once against Ozark, as Joel Schott found the back of the net off a pass from Carson Arnold. Ozark was able to dominate the contest en route to a 5-1 win.
Rolla needed a win on Saturday morning for a number of reasons. A loss would've been Rolla's fifth straight, which would have been the longest losing streak the Bulldogs have had under coach Howard. It would've also put Rolla under .500 for the first time in four years. The Bulldogs came to play and kept that from happening against Southern Boone.
Evan Moore jump started the offense for the Bulldogs with a gorgeous shot in the upper 90 in the 18th minute off an assist by Zach Pendelton. Moore then attempted to fire a shot through traffic in the 35th minute and Arnold was able to redirect the shot into the net, giving Rolla a quick 2-0 lead. Jarret Gabriele then kept the momentum rolling with a goal two minutes later off an assist by Gabe Stanislawski. Southern Boone was able to score before the half, but Rolla went into the break with a 3-1 lead. The Bulldogs then opened the second half with a goal in the 57th minute. Josiah Homan fired a shot in a crowded keeper zone and Arnold was able to find the rebound and bury it for his second goal of the game. Alamaldiem, who recovered from his illness to play the entire game on Saturday, added a PK late to finish off a 5-1 win.
The victory on Saturday put Rolla in a three way tie for second, as Republic and Southern Boone both finished 1-2 along with the Bulldogs. Rolla won the tiebreaker, taking home second place. Coach Howard was glad to see his team finish on a high note and take some lessons away from a busy weekend.
"We always want to win games, obviously, but I think fixing things and playing better is ultimately what this schedule is set up for, to make that postseason run," said coach Howard. "Like today, I thought Joel Schott played on that outside back fabulous. Every time you can find something out, it's good.
"When you lose, I think it forces you to make adjustments," continued the Rolla head coach. "When you're winning, you might think everything is okay when it's really not. It's not a bad thing. And I thought we played really well against Southern Boone. That's the best we've played since Glendale."
Having Alamaldiem back in the lineup played a big role for Rolla on Saturday. He may fly under the radar as a midfielder, but coach Howard sees him as one of the team's key players.
"I think Mo is our motor. He's that ball winner and he forces everyone else to play at a pace that we didn't play at (on Friday) against Republic," said coach Howard. "Not taking anything away from Republic, they're a good solid team, but we're just a different team when Mo doesn't play."
While the Bulldogs may not be used to having their record float around .500, coach Howard is confident he has a very good team on his hands.
"We have a good team," said the Rolla head coach. "Our record is 8-7, but like I told the boys, a couple of overtime games and all of a sudden, you're 11-4 and we're the same team either way."
Unfortunately for a tired Bulldog team, things don't get any easier this week. They've got a pair of conference games against Waynesville and Hillcrest on Monday and Wednesday, before hosting the Thomas Whitefield Games over the weekend. After that tournament, the pace will slow back down a touch as they finish the regular season.
"We're to that stretch after this next week to where we're just playing a couple of days a week and I think that'll be huge," said coach Howard.