COLUMBIA — Haleigh Fancher is fast.
In the 2nd annual Anna Alioto Memorial Classic between rivals Rock Bridge and Hickman at Rock Bridge High School, her speed on the soccer field made the difference.
With the help of Fancher's 21st-minute goal, the Bruins defeated the Kewpies 2-0 Wednesday night.
Up until the goal, however, things were looking great for the visitors.
Hickman controlled the ball and the territory, with Rock Bridge struggling mightily to work the ball into the attacking half.
Then came a dose of Fancher's fantastic speed.
Rock Bridge senior Laurie Frew played a ball over top of the defense to Fancher, who was able to sprint by her defender for a one-on-one opportunity with Hickman goalkeeper Emily Miller.
Fancher, thinking Miller would expect her to fire with her strong right foot, went with her left instead, placing the ball softly into the lower right-hand corner.
Miller, who was strong in the goal all night, was unable to react in time.
"They looked to find that (Fancher) early and often," Hickman coach Adam Taylor said.
"We may have to look at some things formation-wise. Speed has hurt us in the back," he added.
Fancher was isolated at the top of the Bruin attack for most of the night, a position she does not usually play. She enjoys it, though, because it gives her more room to use her speed.
"It's definitely not the plan every night, but we knew they were going to play up," Fancher said. "I like being alone. I like to dribble at people."
Fancher was able to time her runs well throughout the night, and Frew was able to place precise balls in front of her regularly, starting with the goal.
Frew has made an impact since joining the team late — after her time with the Rock Bridge basketball team culminated in a state championship on March 22.
"We got better as soon as she joined us," Rock Bridge coach Gary Drewing said. "Everyone was waiting for her to show up."
Playing balls over the top of a defense on turf can be a tricky task because of the slickness of the surface. Frew was able to connect with Fancher, though, thanks to that speed.
"Even when I'm two steps behind them, I can still beat them," Fancher said. "Turf is perfect. I love the turf."
She wasn't being cocky; it was simply true.
Great saves from Miller prevented several other Fancher scoring opportunities. Without those saves, Fancher probably could have had a hat trick.
The other goal of the night, however, came from Rock Bridge junior Katie Cook.
The ball bounced to Cook with 10 minutes to go in the game at the top of the Kewpie 18-yard box. The 5-foot-2-inch junior was able to fire it into the top shelf with impressive power. The shot, which skimmed the crossbar on its way in, gave Miller no chance for a save.
Cook, relishing her goal against the rival Kewpies, threw her arms up in celebration and was embraced by her teammates.
The Kewpies, who have had trouble scoring of late, had several quality opportunities Wednesday but were thwarted by Rock Bridge's solid back line.
"I was pleased," Taylor said. "I think we played really well tonight."
Obviously, Taylor wasn't pleased to lose to a district rival, but he reminded his team that there's still plenty of soccer left to play this season.
"We know this is just a regular-season game," Taylor said. "I told them I'd rather go through this slump now than three or four weeks from now."
Exactly three weeks from Wednesday night, Taylor's team will face Fancher again when the rivalry switches venues.
"I think we can make an adjustment moving forward," Taylor said.
To stop Fancher and the Bruins, his team will need to.