COLUMBIA — Hickman soccer freshmen Kate Hulen and Sarah Levin are beyond their years.
The two Kewpies both start on a varsity team where 14 of the 21 players are upperclassmen. But coach Tony Gragnani said the two freshmen have earned their roles in the starting lineup.
“They’re both doing a fantastic job of not playing like freshmen,” Gragnani said. “They’ve earned that starting spot, and Sarah’s turning into a real offensive threat for us.”
On Saturday, Hickman lost to Francis Howell Central, 2-0, to drop to 4-5 on the season.
Gragnani was disappointed several players did not play the way that they are capable of, but said that Hulen and Levin, as well as several other players that came off the bench, played well.
“It’s tough,“ Levin said. “It makes me nervous sometimes being the youngest one out there, but we really have to put everything out there since we are younger.”
Levin, a forward, has one goal on the season thus far, while Hulen, a midfielder, has yet to score but has multiple assists.
“At tryouts, what we look for in freshmen is that they’re not playing like freshmen,” Gragnani said. “We want to see that they’re not playing scared and also have the skills to go with it. We try and get them up and get them as much varsity playing time as we can since we’ll have them for a couple more years.”
Hulen and Levin have played for Carrera Soccer Club since they were 8 years old, so they were already close to each other at the start of the season, but going through this together has made them grow even closer.
Hulen said they both depend on each other for support but that several seniors have helped ease the process of transitioning to the varsity level by doing things such as giving them rides to practice or games.
“It’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be,” Hulen said of being a freshman on a lineup dominated by upperclassmen. “I was expecting it to be a lot worse. Sarah and I will bring balls to the shed after practice every once in a while, but even with that, the seniors still help.”
Hulen and Levin attend West Junior since Hickman High School is only 10-12 grades, but they head over to the high school at the end of the school day for practices and games.
Hickman will play at home against Jefferson City on Tuesday.