The most stressful part of Sandy Paulsen’s night came right after Hickman’s game against Hazelwood West Wednesday at Cosmopolitan Park.
A parent came up behind Paulsen as the teams walked off the field and blindfolded her.
“No pies in the face,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen, who coached her last regular season game as the Kewpies coach Wednesday, said her fears were eased when she pulled off the blindfold to find her team around her cheering and releasing balloons.
Paulsen’s final game was not the only thing worth celebrating for Hickman, which beat Hazelwood West 3-0 in what Paulsen called one of its best games.
“We needed a game of this caliber going into districts,” Paulsen said.
The Kewpies allowed one shot and attempted 17. They also had an 11 to one corner kick advantage against the Wildcats.
Midfielder Rachel Miedema said the Kewpies are peaking at the right time.
“The mood is right,” Miedema said. “We’re starting to feel everything come together.”
Hickman (16-3-1) scored its first goal in the 29th minute when midfielder Jodi Bolerjack crossed the ball from the right side of the box to midfielder Megan McCabe, whose shot hit the bottom of the cross bar and bounced in.
McCabe said the Kewpies’ played with good intensity from the beginning.
“We had a good practice last night and just came out fired up,” McCabe said.
Midfielder Molly O’Connell scored the second goal in the 54th minute when she drove from the left side of the box into the center and lofted a shot over Wildcat goalie Lindsey Burroughs.
The final goal came in the 59th minute when Bolerjack drove towards the left post and rolled a shot off Burrough’s foot into the bottom left corner.
O’Connell said Hickman’s aggressive play helped it earn the win.
“Our speed of play was faster,” O’Connell said. “We were going to the ball and not waiting for the ball to come to us.”
O’Connell said playing like this against a team like Hazelwood West (14-6-2) makes her proud.
“It’s really good to beat a good team and beat them well,” O’Connell said.
Miedema also said facing the Wildcats was beneficial to the Kewpies.
“They’re a higher caliber team then we’ve been playing recently,” Miedema said. “It was good to get out there and play with someone more at our level.”
Paulsen said her team’s consistent level of play throughout the game is what impressed her most.
“We played pretty well, I thought, from the beginning to the end,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen said this improved play can be linked to players such as O’Connell and midfielder Kendall Foss’ improved play late in the season.
“A lot of the kids are stepping up,” Paulsen said.
Hazelwood West had two good opportunities to score. In the 52nd minute, midfielder Correen Roark got behind the Hickman defense in front of its goal but was called offsides. Wildcats midfielder Megan Haten fired a hard shot from the right side of the box in the 74th minute but Kewpies goalie Bess Frissell-Durley stopped it for the team’s only save.