COLUMBIA — Meeting new people, learning new routines, trying to find your classes. High school transfers like Hickman student Peter Plakorus don't have it easy.
But Plakorus, a junior who transferred from Fulton over the summer, has an advantage over most transfer students. He is a soccer player familiar with the Kewpies' program.
at Rock Bridge (9-3)
WHEN: JV starts at 5 p.m. with varsity to follow
WHERE: Rock Bridge High School
Hickman coach Adam Taylor is also familiar with him. Plakorus' older brother was a senior on the 2009 Kewpies team that went to the final four of the state tournament. So Plakorus is familiar with some of the team’s older players, and he also knows others, like Grahm Meyer, from playing against them at the club team level.
Meyer, a defender for Hickman and the Columbia Pride club team, matches up with Plakorus almost daily in practice and did so in the offseason against Plakorus' club team out of St. Louis. Meyer said knowing Plakorus makes its easy to accept him into the team.
"It wasn't as much an introduction to him. It was more like bringing him in as a closer family member," Meyer said.
Hickman forward Alex Holliday said Plakorus provides "comic relief at times when things get stressful." Taylor said Plakorus' jokes make it easy for him to get along with his teammates.
At Hickman's first tournament of the season in Quincy, Ill., Taylor remembered how funny it was to see Plakorus hiding in the lobby of the team's hotel to avoid threats from the team's veterans to shave the heads of the new players.
Although soccer has helped ease the situation, the transition between schools hasn’t always been smooth.
"The hardest thing was probably finding my classes," Plakorus said. "It's not a very big school, but it gets confusing when you are not used to it."
Plakorus also worried about showing his ability to his new team's coaching staff and players.
Taylor said that during summer workouts, it didn't seem like Plakorus was pressured to impress anyone, but Plakorus said he did feel like he had something to prove.
"My first couple of tryouts I did, but as I got used to playing with them, I became more relaxed," Plakorus said.
At other times, Plakorus has struggled to learn a new style of soccer.
While at Fulton, he was the lone forward, so once the ball was passed to him, he almost always took it right to the goal in an attempt to score. At Hickman, he is part of a two-forward formation in which he is asked to pass the ball more in an effort to help build possession.
Taylor said one of his main goals is getting Plakorus to understand that passing the ball back to the midfield is important, and it will help him get the ball back in better positions.
Plakorus' struggles with the new style showed early in the year, and he went scoreless in the team’s first five games. But he seems to be on track now. He picked up his first two goals of the season over the weekend of Sept. 9 at the Francis Howell tournament in St. Peters. Then, he scored two more goals in the first 12 minutes of Hickman’s home-opener win last week over Smith-Cotton.
Taylor said he hopes the big performance helps build Plakorus' confidence for the rest of the season. Hickman plays at Rock Bridge on Wednesday, and then the team will head to St. Louis to play in the Gateway City Soccer Classic over the weekend. Plakorus will be experiencing both competitions for the first time.
The situation has his coach excited. Taylor said he is looking forward to working more with Plakorus to improve his game.
"By the time he leaves here, he is going to be a pretty quality player and hopefully get on some award teams," Taylor said.