The bleachers at Soccer Park in Jefferson City have been through a lot. Bright red paint chips off the weathered wood with every step, and the boards have become so wobbly that at the slightest movement fans reach for their food containers and chase their water bottles below their seats. But the bleachers still stand along a stretch of the soccer field, supporting screaming fans, win or lose. Despite rough conditions, the stands continue to do their job.
The Hickman girls’ soccer team can relate. The Kewpies travelled to Soccer Park on Thursday evening to compete in the Class 2 sectionals. District 9 champion Lafayette defeated Hickman 2-0. Despite the loss, the Kewpies said they were proud of themselves for coming so far in an emotionally-trying season.
Hickman coach Jon Strodtman travels to Houston each month to receive treatment for carcinoid tumors on his small intestines. The team holds fundraisers throughout the season to help with Strodtman’s travel expenses. Strodtman said he knows his condition can at times be a distraction for the girls on the field.
The Kewpies have also been struggling with another recent tragedy. On Friday, freshman midfielder Michelle Lowery’s mother, Loretta Lowery, died from an apparent brain aneurysm at age 45.
Thursday’s game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but was postponed for the funeral of Loretta Lowery.
Strodtman said everything the team has been through this season makes it hard for them on the field, which showed in the sectional loss.
“We didn’t play our game,” Strodtman said. “We played the best we could with what we had, but we didn’t play the best we could.”
Both of the Lancers goals came late in the second half. After a diving save off a corner kick in the 65th minute, Hickman goalie Bess Frissell-Durley was unable to stop a shot seconds later from Lafayette senior Meg O’Connell. Less than three minutes later, senior Melissa Lantz headed the ball into the back of the net to double the Lancers lead on Hickman (12-7-4).
Strodtman has always told his team that the first goal is the most important, especially in championship games.
“They got the first goal,” he said. “1-0, 10-0, it doesn’t matter. Districts, sectionals, semifinals, they’re one-goal games. Once it happens, the flood gates open.”
Lafayette coach Tim Walters, whose team wore it’s away jerseys, said he was proud of his team for winning despite being in unfamiliar territory in Jefferson City.
“They were a little bigger than us, but we read the game better,” he said. “Goals are hard to come by. And I know it’s not their home field, but this is kind of like their backyard.”
Lafayette (19-2-1) advances to quarterfinals against Kickapoo on Saturday at Camdenton High School. Kickapoo (22-6) defeated Glendale 2-0 in its sectional game on Tuesday. Walters said he was concerned about Kickapoo having three extra days to rest before the matchup.
“We obviously had to move this game back, it was the right thing to do, there’s no question about that,” he said. “But I would have thought they would have moved the next round back a couple of days to try to level things out. I would wish the same for Hickman if they were moving on.”
Strodtman said the Kewpies should come back to Columbia with their heads held high.
“I told the girls they need to be proud of themselves,” he said. “They did well and accomplished a lot this season. They learned a tremendous amount about all sorts of things. They’ve had a difficult time and it’s disappointing that we lost, but that’s soccer.”