Hickman soccer to face familiar foe in district semifinals

Saturday, October 29, 2011 | 7:24 p.m. CDT; updated 8:32 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 29, 2011
John Gilmore stretches at soccer practice on Thursday at Hickman High School. The team will play their first district game against Jefferson City on Monday.

COLUMBIA — Hickman senior Alex Holliday has revenge on his mind going into his team’s district semifinal showdown with rival Jefferson City on Monday night.

Not only did the Jays dominate the Kewpies in this year’s regular season matchup, but they also ended Hickman’s season last year by beating them in the district semifinals.

Monday's games

District semifinals at Rock Bridge High School

Rock Bridge vs. Washington, 5 p.m.

Hickman vs. Jefferson City, 7 p.m.

“Peter (Plakorus) was there for that first game (this season), and I was there for that last district game that we played them and they took us out,” Holliday said.

“So we all have a bone to pick with them,” he said. “It’s all about revenge now.”

Hickman coach Adam Taylor said he hopes when his team takes the field Monday night it remembers what happened the last two times it faced Jefferson City.

“Having them not only beat us pretty handily earlier in the season, but knocking us out last year, will be something that hopefully these guys will be able to kind of relive and say, ‘It can’t happen like this again,’” Taylor said.

Hickman assistant coach Tony Gragnani said there are positives and negatives about playing such a familiar opponent.

“You have a sense of you know what to expect, whereas, if you had an opponent that you’ve never played before, you are kind of just guessing,” Gragnani said. “But with playing somebody (who you play often) you have to be aware that both teams know each other's strength and weaknesses.”

Monday night will mark the fourth consecutive year the two teams have met in the Class 3, District 9 tournament. In 2008 and 2009, it was in the championship game while last year it was in the semifinals.

If the game continues the trend set by the team's previous district encounters the advantage goes to the Kewpies.

The three previous times the teams played in districts the lower-seeded team won. This year Hickman is the three seed while Jefferson City is seeded second.

“You’ll hear coaches all the time say, ‘You want to be the hunter not the hunted,’” Taylor said. “So, you know, I guess being the three seed helps us a little bit.”

Also the Jays won the two times the teams played on grass fields, at home in 2008 and in Sedalia last year. On the flip side the Kewpies won at home in 2009 on turf. This year’s host, Rock Bridge, plays on turf.

“Being at Rock Bridge we know what kind of surface we are going into when we walk on the field,” Taylor said. “I wouldn’t say it plays to our advantage, but we like the fact that we get to play on turf on Monday night.”

Most people would chalk up those previous instances to coincidence, but there is other evidence that suggests Jefferson City won’t have an easy time repeating its performance from earlier in the season.

On Sept. 6 in Jefferson City, the Jays beat the Kewpies 4-1 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. The game, though, was only the third of the season for the Jays and fourth for the Kewpies.

As of late Hickman has been trending upward, having won four of its last seven games. Jefferson City, on the other hand, has been heading south, having lost five of its last six games.

The two teams do share one similarity; their last two wins have both come against Camdenton and Waynesville. The Jays defeated Camdenton 4-0 and Waynesville 2-0, while the Kewpies beat both 5-0.

Coming off those two straight wins, Gragnani said it’s sometimes tough to balance sticking with what has been working recently and game planning for a specific opponent.

“You always want to play your style. I think you also, though, take into account what the other team does,” Gragnani said. “Based on our last experience we kind of have an expectation of what Jeff City wants to do.”

Taylor said he is just focusing on getting his team ready to play but added he doesn’t think he will need to do anything special to motivate his guys on Monday. He said if anything he is worried they might be too excited come game time.

“There is going to be some added emotions in the game, and I think whoever comes out and has those settled pretty early will be the one that’s going to benefit,” Taylor said.

“It’s a good thing, though. I mean you got a rivalry. You shouldn’t have to say too much before the game starts because you know your guys should be able to step on the field and be ready to play.”

Holliday said he’ll be ready.

The senior captain added, “Jeff City probably won’t know what hit them.”

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