By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
You may notice an atypical style from the Rolla Bulldogs this season.
Offense, not defense, could be the Bulldogs’ calling card.
“We lost some key players and our schedule is very difficult,” said Bulldogs coach Mike Howard. “Hopefully as the season moves on we can find some players to step up and fill those holes.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs bring back most of their arsenal.
Senior forward Jarret Gabriele finished with a team-high 25 goals to go with 12 assists last season. He was one of three Bulldogs to earn all-region honors last season but is the lone returnee among that group.
Joining Gabriele are four other players who all had between five and nine goals.
Junior midfielder Mohamad Alamaldiem had nine goals and nine assists. He made the All-Ozark Conference first team in 2017.
Another junior midfielder, Gabe Stanislawski, earned second team All-Ozark Conference honors. He had seven goals and 16 assists.
With weapons at forward and midfield, Howard feels good about his offense. In 2017, the Bulldogs averaged 3.48 goals per match.
“I think we will be OK attacking the goal as we have almost everyone back,” Howard said.
After missing most of his sophomore season due to injury, Carson Arnold bounced back strong in 2017. He led Rolla with 17 assists and added five goals; he was named second team all-conference.
Evan Moore is back as well. He chipped in seven goals and four assists as a sophomore.
The Bulldogs graduated forward and second team all-conference selection Jayson Ross from their up-front unit.
New names will need to emerge on defense. Last season, the Bulldogs recorded 13 shutouts and allowed 22 goals.
But Rolla graduated a pair of stellar defensive players from that team: Drew Blair (goalkeeper) and Nick Janke (defender). Both were two-time all-state selections.
Blair is Rolla’s all-time leader in shutouts. Janke, who also played basketball and track, anchored Rolla’s back line.
“Defensively, I’m a little more concerned with our lineup,” Howard said.
Senior Rhys Proffitt returns as a starter on Rolla’s back line. He received honorable mention all-conference honors last season.
Junior Josiah Homan is slated to take over goalkeeping duties in place of Blair.
The Bulldogs finished 22-5 overall last season, their third season of 20 or more wins since 2012. They fell 1-0 to Glendale in the Class 3 sectional round.
Rolla toppled Marshfield and Helias Catholic by a combined 10-1 margin to win its district tournament.
Howard has over 800 career wins coaching the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams at Rolla High School.
Rolla opens the regular season August 28 at home against Pacific.