Oakville Senior High soccer team on a roll

Tigers playing winning soccer despite loss of four starters.

By MARK McNAMARA

Oakville Tigers soccer players would have given the shirts off their backs if a teammate needed it during the 56th annual Catholic Youth Council/Bob Guelker Memorial Tournament at the Anheuser-Busch Center Soccer Park in Fenton.

Afterward, that probably wouldn’t have happened. The championship T-shirts showed that the Tigers became the first public high school to win the Monsignor Louis Meyer Division of the tournament since at least 1991.

“The shirts we got after the tourney listed the winners since 1992, when Vianney won, and they were all private schools. I never realized it until I saw the shirts,” Oakville head coach Dave Robben said.

Oakville beat Christian Brothers College High School 2-1 in the championship game of the largest of three divisions Sept. 25 in their fifth game in five days. Entering Tuesday’s game against Eureka High School, the Tigers had won nine and tied one of their last 11 games. They had an 11-4-2 record before the game.

“We’re doing a lot of work and there’s a lot of scolding going on, but it’s great,” Robben said. “We’re pretty tough to beat. That’s what we proved in that tournament. It was fun. Everyone was playing for everyone. It was special.”

In the championship, junior Luke Miller knocked in the rebound off a shot by junior Jared Swierk for the game-winning goal with eight minutes left.

In a 3-2 semifinal win over St. Louis University High Sept. 24, Swierk netted the game-winner with six minutes left. Swierk scored two goals and senior John O’Brien assisted on both and scored a goal.

Oakville tied St. Mary’s High School 1-1 in a pool-play game that was scheduled for Sept. 20, but postponed to Sept. 23.

“We knew we were through pool play on points, and the guys still got out of it with a tie. Against SLUH, we had spaghetti legs for sure,” Robben said.

Oakville had fairly fresh legs when it pulled off its first tournament upset Sept. 22 against Chaminade College Preparatory School. Oakville’s only on-field captain, senior Rylan Smelcer, scored the game’s only goal with less than a minute to play.

“He’s playing like a true captain. In the wins against SLUH and CBC, his energy was an inspiration to all the other players,” Robben said.

Oakville won its first game of pool play 1-0 over Fort Zumwalt West on an early goal by O’Brien. After the tournament, Oakville played Lindbergh and Lafayette high schools to scoreless ties through regulation and two overtimes. Against Lafayette, the Tigers came out with the win on penalty kicks. Against Lindbergh, the Flyers won on penalty kicks.

“We’re back to reality now. Our true nemeses in the last couple years have been the public schools,” Robben said. “This week has been a real eye opener in terms of how much work we have ahead of us, and the style of play we have ahead of us with the athletic play of the public schools as opposed to the possession style of the private schools.”

The Tigers also beat De Soto 6-0. They have not let season-ending injuries to four starters destroy their season.

“This team’s resilient,” Robben said. “It’s amazing to see their ability to bounce back and the way they picked up and started playing as a team.”

Senior goalkeeper Josh Richter is softening the blow of the absences of seniors Drew Hensel and John Makowski and junior Zack Klipsch, who are sidelined with ACL injuries, and sophomore Kyle Filiput, who is out after undergoing abdominal surgery.

“I can’t say enough about the play of Josh Richter. He’s kept us in every one of these games. It’s huge to have a keeper that can keep you in the game when you’re off,” Robben said.