COLUMBIA — Over the past two games, the Hickman girls soccer team seems to have found the right way to play together.
It showed in the Kewpies' 2-0 victory over Troy Buchanan High on Monday night, their second victory in a row.
Hickman (5-4-1) struggled last week, playing shorthanded. Monday, however, marked the first time in more than a week that the team played with all its members.
Hickman coach Tony Gragnani was back after missing a couple of games, and Monday night marked the return of sophomore goalkeeper Emily Miller.
Miller, last season’s Regional Goalkeeper of the Year, left Hickman’s April 5 game against Lindbergh after she collided with the goalpost as she attempted a save. Monday's game against Troy Buchanan was her first time back on the field after missing the previous two games with concussion-like symptoms.
“I felt back at 100 percent,” Miller said. “Especially coming back to a game like tonight against a solid opponent.”
Her return seemed to inspire her teammates. The normally slow-starting Kewpies jumped out to a first-half lead behind goals by freshmen Kelsey Mirts and Molly Klein.
Gragnani said his team entered the game focusing on their first-half energy level, which has been a problem recently. The team responded.
“I always say that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in the game because it’s easy to become complacent,” Gragnani said. “I tell them they have to continue to play with a sense of urgency.”
Gragnani said a number of clutch saves by Miller stopped Troy Buchanan from seizing momentum at critical points in the game. The most notable might have been stops on a pair of Troy Buchanan fast breaks early in the second half.
Miller said that unlike in weeks past, the team didn’t say much before the game. Instead, the Kewpies entered Monday's contest with a quiet determination to win.
“We’re finally putting it together,” Miller said. “Tonight was a glimpse of what we can be.”
She said Monday night’s win gives Hickman momentum heading into their next game against Jefferson City, a team that usually competes for the district championship.
The Kewpies are set to face the Jays at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at 179 Soccer Park in Jefferson City.