Thursday, October 1, 2009

Goalkeeper's save lifts Rock Bridge soccer team

Rock Bridge goalkeeper Brady Wulff has earned the respect of his coach Kyle Austin. “He has these natural instincts, and his reaction time is just unbelievable. He’s one of the best keepers I’ve ever seen," Austin said. ¦ CHELSEA SEKTNAN/Missourian BY Kevin Deane

COLUMBIA — A year ago, Brady Wulff had to watch his Rock Bridge soccer team lose to Hickman in a penalty shootout from the stands while he rehabbed a broken leg. He made sure that didn't happen again this year.

Wulff, the junior goalkeeper for the Bruins, left his feet and dove to his right to block a penalty kick from Hickman junior Matt Baker with six minutes to play, preserving a 2-1 Rock Bridge victory– the first regular season victory against the Kewpies in two years.

After the final whistle blew at Rock Bridge's field, Wulff was engulfed in a sea of gold jerseys at midfield. Not a single member of the Bruins' team got out of the celebratory huddle without jumping on Wulff or giving him several slaps on the back, coaches included. Wulff's smile alone seemed to light up the entire stadium.

“It is just a testament to all that he (Wulff) has been through,” Rock Bridge coach Kyle Austin said. “This is his first season back. That was a debilitating leg injury he had to come back from. He’s worked his butt off, and I’m really proud of him.”

Austin makes the team practice penalty kicks every other day to prepare for situations like these, but he thinks that the save still speaks to Wulff’s abilities as a goalkeeper.

“He is a great goalkeeper,” Austin said. “He has these natural instincts, and his reaction time is just unbelievable. He’s one of the best keepers I’ve ever seen.”

Nobody was more confident than Austin about Wulff's chances of blocking the penalty kick. Austin saw Baker go to the right to score in the shootout in last year’s defeat, and had seen him send penalty kicks to the right numerous other times. So before the kick, Austin tried to flag down Wulff to let him know. He didn’t know if Wulff caught on until he blocked it.

“To his credit, he didn’t tip that he saw me,” Austin said. “We teach him, ‘be instinctive, read the PK taker and make your best guess on where you think the ball is going to go.’ He came up big.”

Wulff commands confidence from his coaches, his teammates and even the opposing players. Junior Andy Atkins is Hickman’s leading scorer with five goals and plays on the same Under-17 club team, Pride, with Wulff.

“It hurts,” Atkins said after the game, “But it was just a great play. It was a moment of brilliance by a great keeper. Without him in the game, it’s a different result tonight.”

Wulff didn’t even have to touch the ball until the 37th minute, thanks to a defense that stepped up and got the ball out, something that both Austin and Wulff say the team has been working on.

“We pretty much know we’ve given up some pretty crappy goals so far this season,” Wulff said. “So right now we’ve just really been working on our total defense.”

The game was a physical one that saw both a Rock Bridge and a Hickman player get sent off the field after being booked with a yellow card. Hickman coach Larry Thornburg says that is just a part of playing in the Rock Bridge/Hickman rivalry. He also says part of it is that players are all familiar with each other from club teams, like Wulff and Atkins, or just from playing against one another for years.

Junior Danny Baird also had a big night, scoring the go-ahead goal with 10 minutes left. He took a ball tossed from Travis Salbo and put it off the crossbar past Kewpies’ goalkeeper Chuck Wilson for his first goal of the season.

Rock Bridge and Hickman could play each other again in the district tournament, something both the players and coaches said they will be looking forward to.

“It was a very even-matched game,” Thornburg said. “I know what we’re going to work on, I know what happened. I couldn’t prevent it, but I know what happened.”

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Driving Directions

  • WAYNESVILLE : Take 63 South Towards Jeff City. Take US-54 W thru Osage Beach to Camdenton. Take MO Hwy 5 South to Lebanon , MO.Continue on MO Hwy 5 South to I-44 E towards Waynesville, MO. Take Exit 156, toward WAYNESVILLE/FORT LEONARD WOOD. Turn LEFT onto HIGHWAY H/I-44-BL/MO-H. Continue to follow I-44-BL.Turn RIGHT onto MO-17/W I-44-BL.1001 HISTORIC 66 W.
  • QUINCY TOURNAMENT IN QUINCY ILLINOIS: From Columbia Take 70 West to Kingdom City. Take 54 North to Mexico and then 54 east and north (54/19) to Laddonia. From Laddonia take 19 North to New London and then 61 North to Hannibal. When you get to Hannibal, you will need to take a right at the sign that says Quincy or to Illinois or to Springfield which is hwy 72 across the river. You will then pick up Highway 172 north to Quincy. In Quincy take the Broadway exit and go left.The fields we are playing on are located on State Street. The streets in Quincy that run West to East are numbered streets. The Mississippi River is to the West and the street numbers get higher the further East you go. When you enter from highway 172 the first street you will see is 48th street. Go left. At State St turn right and the park is a few blocks on the right. The Paul Dennis Complex is located on State between 36th and 48th street.
  • JEFFERSON CITY- 179 SOCCER PARK: Take 63 to Jeff City. Across the river take Hwy 50 toward Sedalia. Take the hwy 179 exit and turn right onto 179. The soccer park is about 3 miles on your left.
  • DESMET High school from CBC High school (about 3 miles): leave CBC and turn left (east) onto N Forty Dr. Turn right onto Conway Rd. Follow Conway Rd to left at S New Ballas Rd and it is about 1.2 miles to the high school at 233 N. New Ballas Rd.
  • CBC High school in St Louis: about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Take I-70 east to US40E/US61S just past Wentzville. Head toward Chesterfield/Forrest Park. About 23 miles to Mason Rd exit. Take S Mason Rd north back over the highway. Turn right on N. Forty Dr and the high school is on your left about a mile at 1850 De la Salle Dr.
  • CAMDENTON: Hwy 54 out of Jeff City to Hwy 5 in Camdenton. Turn left (east) on to Hwy 5. Continue on Hwy 5 for 5 or 6 blocks and can see the school campus on your left (north side of road). Turn on to Dare Blvd and the stadium is a block or two behind the schools.
  • SMITHTON TOURNAMENT: I-70 west to Booneville. Exit on Hwy 5 south. From Hwy 5 take Hwy 50 west. Go to Hwy W and turn south. Follow Hwy W into Smithton. Turn east on to E. Washington St. (I think this is a continuation of Hwy W), Turn right (south) on to Myrtle Ave and the school is 550 Myrtle Ave. Games are at the school.
  • ROLLA: Hwy 63 out of Jefferson City. Continue on Hwy 63 into Rolla. Turn left (east) on to 10th St. Continue on 10th St about 8 blocks to N. Cedar St. High School is at corner of N. Cedar and 10th St. Soccer field is behind the high school.