Where many saw disappointment — even his teammates — Rockhurst High School senior Brendan Marquart found motivation.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
A year ago, for the first time in more than a decade, the Rockhurst soccer team was left out of the playoff bracket. Given the tradition established within the school’s soccer program, Marquart was embarrassed. So were his soon-to-be senior teammates.
Together, they organized offseason workouts — with the absence of coaches’ influence — and began the process of making sure it wouldn’t happen again.
By no coincidence, a year later, the Hawklets are in the Class 3 state tournament. They will face Christian Brothers College in a semifinal match at 4 p.m. at Blue Springs South.
“We made a commitment,” said Marquart, a captain for the 2012 team. “We knew it was our senior year, and we only had one year to correct what went wrong.”
It took the full season to figure it all out. With the loss of key players to graduation, others to injuries and a few to academy teams, Rockhurst stumbled out of the gate.
It didn’t catch its feet until there were only two games left in the regular season, and the Hawklets were owners of a pedestrian 13-9-1 record.
“There were some doubts early on,” Marquart said. “It just wasn’t clicking yet. But I knew it was going to come. It was just a matter of when.”
It came Oct. 23, a senior night, 1-0 victory against the state’s top-ranked team, Lee’s Summit North. The Hawklets handed the Broncos only their second loss of the season.
Rockhurst hasn’t been beaten since, compiling a six-game winning streak, which it will carry into its ninth state tournament appearance in the past 11 years. Rockhurst has won three of the past five state titles.
“This was a group that really needed the entire season to jell,” Rockhurst coach Chris Lawson said. “This team really benefited from the quality of our schedule.”
During its six-game winning streak, Rockhurst has allowed only one goal. That score came during a 2-1 win against Jefferson City in the regular season finale, meaning no team has scored on the Hawklets in the postseason.
Rockhurst, 19-9-1, has already faced CBC, 24-5-1, this season. CBC won the Oct. 13 meeting, 2-1 in overtime.
“We’re better now than we were then,” Lawson said. “I think our defense is more consistent. Everyone is buying in that it’s a team effort.”
Warriors eye Class 2 title
Players, opponents and even a little bit of strategy have changed over the past decade for the Smithville soccer team.
No matter, one thing seems to remain constant: Defensive tenacity.
In reaching its third consecutive Class 2 state soccer tournament, the Warriors, 23-3, have once again put the clamps on the opponents’ score column. Smithville has allowed only 11 goals in 26 games this season.
“We’ve always relied on our defense,” Smithville coach Jon Reed said. “We know if our defense plays a solid game, we’re going to keep our opponent off the scoreboard or hold them to one goal.”
They may need one of their best efforts in Friday’s 11 a.m. semifinal match with St. Dominic, which will be played at Blue Springs High School. Reed referred to the game as a battle — and possibly an uphill one — against the private school from St. Louis.
For once, though, the Warriors may have the weaponry to win the fight. Smithville finished third in the state last fall and second in 2010, but the team has improved its offense in 2012.
Isaac Benner has scored 45 goals and added 15 assists, with Troy Williams (26 goals), Tylor Mensik (22), Hank Richey (13) and Daniel Parker (12) providing an array of scoring options the Warriors haven’t had the past two seasons.
“I think this team, probably more so than any I’ve ever coached, is much more balanced,” Reed said. “We don’t just rely on that one guy. We get goal scoring from everyone, even in our midfield.”