COLUMBIA — Andy Messenger started playing lacrosse at Hickman in eighth grade.
Messenger quickly fell in love with the sport and forged friendships with his teammates. Along with many of his teammates at the time, Messenger developed a passion for Hickman lacrosse while playing for former coach Ken Watkins, who died in a car accident on July 4, 2004.
Watkins was a founding member of the Hickman lacrosse club when he was a student at Hickman, and he later became a coach for the team. Messenger was a member of the first group of players Watkins coached.
Goalie Dan Hurst, who carries a program from Watkins’ funeral with him in his wallet, said Watkins always had a positive coaching style.
“He was our coach when we started in eighth grade and he was the one who really made us fall in love with the sport,” Logan Parker said.
After he died, Messenger and eight of his classmates came together to dedicate their playing careers to coach Watkins.
Messenger played at Hickman through his sophomore season, but then his dad, Tony Messenger, got a job working in Springfield.
Andy Messenger was disappointed that he was going to have to leave his teammates and the sport he loved. But his dad asked him to give Springfield a try.
It wasn’t long after the move, however, before Andy Messenger started missing his friends from Columbia.
“I just really didn’t like it, and I missed playing for Hickman,” Andy Messenger said. “I didn’t think I could play for another team.”
During the fall of his first semester in Springfield, Andy Messenger decided that he wanted to return to Columbia and rejoin his teammates for his junior season of lacrosse.
During a visit to his closest friend on the Hickman team, A.J. Jayamanne, Andy Messenger told Jayamanne that he wasn’t happy in Springfield. Jayamanne’s father offered to let Andy Messenger live with the Jayamanne family if he wanted to move back to Columbia.
At Christmas time, Andy Messenger wrote his parents a letter asking them if he could move back to Columbia to play lacrosse at Hickman.
His parents knew the Jayamannes and agreed to let their son move in with them.
“It was hard. I missed him,” Tony Messenger said. “We knew it would be best for him to be happier his junior and senior year. And he had a good situation to stay with his best friend’s parents.”
The families knew each other from lacrosse when the Messengers lived in Columbia, so the Messengers were comfortable entrusting the Jayamannes with their son.
For the boys, who are now seniors, living and playing together has been a positive experience.
“You always dream of living with one of your best friends and I actually got to do it,” Andy Messenger said.
During Andy Messenger’s junior year, Tony Messenger did not get to see many of his games since he was still living in Springfield.
But then Tony Messenger changed jobs again.
He now works in Jefferson City and can come to most of his son’s games.
This season, Andy Messenger is the captain and a vocal leader for the senior-laden Hickman squad.
“He is just a really composed and solid guy,” Hickman coach Jamie Mullen said. “He’s kind of the glue of the team.”
As a vocal leader, Andy Messenger tries to stress to his teammates the importance of what he calls “playing Kewpie lacrosse.” According to Messenger, Kewpie lacrosse is about giving maximum effort and having a positive attitude.
On the field, Andy Messenger does the faceoffs for the Kewpies. On Sunday, at home against Parkway South, Messenger’s faceoffs helped Hickman dominate possession of the ball on its way to a 13-3 win.
“He wins all our faceoffs. That’s a big part of the game,” senior attacker Mason Poage said.
All 10 of Hickman’s starters are seniors, and Sunday was the first time they had the chance to play on the artificial turf field at Hickman High School. They usually play their home games at Cosmopolitan Park.
“It was very exciting for us,” Mullen said. “It’s a beautiful facility with nice turf, so the guys were really excited.”
According to the players, the game moved faster on the artificial turf than it would on grass, and it was much easier to corral ground balls.
Poage scored four goals and had two assists on Sunday to lead Hickman. Logan Parker had two goals and two assists. Thomas Eckels scored three goals, all in the first half. The Kewpies are now 5-3 on the season.