COLUMBIA — The Hickman and Rock Bridge girls soccer teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Rock Bridge is experienced, returning several key players from last year's sectional champions, including senior forward Carmen Boessen, who was second-team all-state in Class 3 last season. Out of the 18 players on the varsity roster, only five are underclassmen, with Sydney Griggs being the only freshman.
Hickman is coming off a three-win season and relies heavily on their underclassmen, including five freshmen. One of those, Emily Miller, is the starting goalkeeper for Kewpies.
So it wasn't surprising that Rock Bridge easily handled Hickman on Monday night, securing a 3-1 victory playing in front of its home crowd for the first time this season.
It did not help that Hickman went much of the game a player down. Hickman sophomore Madison Kent was sent off with a red card midway through the first half after an altercation with a Rock Bridge player.
Boessen scored with a header off of a cross from sophomore teammate Haleigh Fancher just 24 seconds into the game to set the tone. Bruins coach Marc VanDover said he relies on Boesson to be a leader, both through her play and her communication.
"That's one thing I ask the team, to be louder than Carmen," Vandover said.
Although Kewpies coach Tony Gragnani knows his team has a lot of work to do, he said he saw positives in the loss, including the performance of Miller.
"She gives us a lot of confidence back there," Gragnani said. "Sometimes I have to remind myself that she is only 14-years-old."
Miller kept the score close at 1-0 until early in the second half, stopping several shots, including a breakaway early in the first half.
Gragnani said he appreciates the experience his underclassmen are gaining by competing at the varsity level. The Kewpies have already almost matched their win total from last season, when the Kewpies did not secure their first victory until senior night.
"I told the girls that the get go is going to be rough," Gragnani said. "But as the season progresses the team is going to catch on and start getting it."
VanDover said he agrees the Kewpies will get better as the season progresses, based off his experience with younger teams.
"It is more difficult in the beginning of the season to play underclassmen, because they just don't have the experience," VanDover said. "But halfway through a season, when you play quality opponents, then they are no longer underclassmen."
Rock Bridge and Hickman will test that theory when they meet next on May 2 at Hickman.