The out of town competition, however, has been quite fierce, as SLUH has fallen to each team from outside of the St. Louis area they faced with the exception of Rockhurst High School of Kansas City .
After a long offseason of training and practice, the Jr. Bills were ready to start the season in a home opener against the Lafayette Lancers on the freezing windy Friday night of March 8.
The first half of the first quarter was all Lafayette. They efficiently netted three goals in two minutes, which brought some nervous feelings to the home crowd, but these feelings soon disappeared as the Jr. Bills began to get back into the swing of things.
A quarter and a half later, the Jr. Bills had stormed back with five unanswered goals.
Senior captain Charlie Carse and senior Collin Gund each had a hat trick, and junior Brendan Hannah scored two goals. The game also saw a fantastic performance from sophomore Bobby Conroy, who put away four goals. Consistent goaltending from senior captain Will Webster helped secure the first win of the season, 14-8.
“It’s important for the year to start off with a win, so that’s nice. It’s nice to get back into the game again,” said Webster.
Five days later, the Jr. Bills beat Chaminade 12-9. Along with the exhilaration of defeating a rival, the win gave the Jr. Bills a huge moral boost, making the Jr. Bills feel as if they could make things interesting with any team in St. Louis.
“That was really important, especially because they have a very good defense this year. We took the game real serious. At the beginning of the game we came out really fired up. That game was really well put together. We played well as a team, not just individually,” said Carse.
A trip down to the Louisville area over the next weekend, March 16-17, pitted SLUH against its toughest opponents yet, and some of the best teams in that region. The first was against St. Xavier High School in Louisville.
Going in, the Jr. Bills knew Xavier had some of the brightest offensive talent in the region, and it showed, as SLUH was throttled 19-3. St. X had a very easy time putting balls in the net and an even easier time controlling possession.
What held SLUH back the most though was their inability to clear the ball, and in turn the offense saw little opportunity to make a dent in St. X’s lead.
The next day, the Jr. Bills next faced off against Trinity High School of Louisville. Trinity’s offense showed the same ferocity as St. X, and they steamrolled their way past a fatigued Jr. Bills team to an easy 17-5 victory.
“Our defense is brand new. Our defense could definitely use some work,” said senior defenseman Nick Lang. “We were getting beat pretty easily out of town. It was our first games together, and we just weren’t communicating. As time goes on, we’re definitely getting better at communicating and our defense is getting better,”
The following weekend, the Jr. Bills traveled again, but this time the destination was Tennessee. The boys in blue fared slightly better this weekend, losing 10-6 to Memphis University School and 16-6 to Briarcrest Christian Academy, but despite making improvements, they were still unhappy with the results.
“We have a lot of new guys this year, especially on defense, so every time we practice we get better. Just that one week of practice showed us how much better we could get throughout the year,” said Webster.
After returning home, SLUH was set to face off against Eureka, who the Jr. Bills defeated in the semi-finals last year to advance to the state championship. SLUH faced a major problem in this game, though. Eureka senior Chase Baker scored nine times in Eureka’s 19-11 rout of the Junior Bills. SLUH kept it close in the first half, but the pressure from Baker and company was just too much for the new defense to handle.
“We played a zone for him so he couldn’t get inside, and literally all he did was stand outside our zone and pick corner,” said Lang. “He has the best shot I’ve seen yet. I heard he’s an All-American, and he could play D1 if he wanted to, but he would just stand at the top of our zone, almost at the restraining line, and ‘nipe corners. It was crazy. I’ve never seen such a good shot.”
The Jr. Bills, after losing five in a row, looked to make a comeback with a victory over Rockhurst from Kansas City.
The beginning of the game played into Rockhurst’s hands, accumulating a 6-2 lead by the end of half. At one point in the second half, the Jr. Bills faced a deficit as large as five, trailing 8-3. But Webster and the defense held Rockhurst back by enough for Carse and Hannah to lead the Jr. Bills to a thrilling comeback win with five goals apiece.
“It was a good win for us. We needed a win at that time, after five straight losses,” said Webster. “It was good to get back, and it showed us that even when were down, there’s still a little bit of fight left in us. We worked hard and quick, so that was good to see.”
The Jr. Bills’ offense in an 18-5 demolition of Parkway West. Carse led the team, scoring a third of the teams points and enough for two hat tricks.
SLUH played Arrowhead High School from Wisconsin next. The two teams were tightly matched throughout the game, in large part because of a stellar performance from Arrowhead’s goalie, who shut down many of the Jr. Bills’ offensive opportunities. SLUH’s weakness on defense ultimately got the better of them as Arrowhead managed to put up one more point than them in the final quarter to make the final score 11-10.
“It was good playing an out of town team a little more evenly matched with us,” said Webster. “Obviously we lost, but it came down to the last minute of the game, so we’re showing improvement. If we played them again later in the year, it would probably be a different outcome.”
The team faced Shawnee Mission East of Kansas City the following day. The team has yet to win a game on the day after a game, a trend that continued against Shawnee.
After falling behind by five in the first quarter, SLUH’s defense greatly improved. Hannah racked up another hat trick, as did Conroy and Carse. Once again, the issue for the Jr. Bills came down to possession time, which was difficult to find as turnovers from Shawnee were hard to come by and SLUH’s weakness in clearing the ball continued to be evident.
“Our main focus is our clears,” said Lang. “Once we stop a shot or get a turnover, we have a hard time getting it to our offense and then if we don’t get it to our offense it gives the other team a fast break which lets in easier goals. We need to work on our clears.”
The Jr. Bills play Saturday in the Father Marco Cup vs. their Jesuit archrivals De Smet High School.