Kelsi Moore and her teammates aren’t usually in need of convincing anyone of Nixa’s prowess, given the program’s seven District championships and seven COC titles over the past 11 years.
But after being shut out 3-0 by Glendale in a jamboree two weeks ago, the Lady Eagles felt the need to redeem themselves.
Nixa gained redemption by open its season Tuesday against the same Lady Falcons and prevailing 4-0.
“We were ready to prove we can do a lot better than we did at the jamboree,” Moore said. “I’m proud how we proved ourselves by not scoring just once, but four times.”
Moore, Kaya Coconaugher, Abby Harrison and Alexa Gaunt all scored as part of a second-half outburst by the Lady Eagles. Bailey Reynolds, Ashlynn Stoneberger, Katie Kamies and Bella Johnson each provided an assist.
After a scoreless first half, Nixa displayed a killer instinct.
“We’ve always been a team like that,” Cocanaugher said. “After our first goal, we start picking up and getting back in the groove of things. It’s kind of like dusting the rust off your boots. We just needed that first goal to get us going.”
“We picked up the intensity and started making the passes we were supposed to be making,” Moore said.
“We moved the ball better, connected and didn’t let up,” Harrison said. “That resulted in a good outcome for us.”
“Whoever gets that first goal gets the momentum and can relax and play,” coach Evan Palmer said. “In the first five minutes, we were tentative. Then, we got into the physical side of it. That’s what we’re going to need to do if we’re going to do something this season.”
Cocanaugher received a corner kick from Reynolds and found the back of the net for the first goal of the night.
“We’ve been playing together so long that we can communicate with our eyes and I knew she was going to hit it to me,” Cocanaugher said. “I had to be there. I had to push through a couple of girls and ran straight to it. Even if I would have had to run into the pole, I was going to get the ball in there. It was what had to happen.”
A defender, Cocanaugher savored the rare scoring opportunity. She had two goals as a sophomore two years ago.
“I’ve wanted to play up since I was a freshman. I always want to play offense,” she said. “But I’ve been needed in the back. I’ll put the work in wherever (Palmer) needs me.”
“She had a heck of a game tonight,” Palmer said. “She’s gotten so much better with her left foot. That’s what was holding her back. Her speed, smarts and tenacity are second to none.
"Getting that first goal coming from the back on the corner kick was awesome to see and on another set piece she got the ball back in the box and getting a foul," he added. "That put us over the top.”
Cocanhaugher was part of Nixa’s defensive effort that limited Glendale’s shots on goal in the second half to a select few.
“We have a sophomore center back, Lydia DeWild, who is keeping up with us Elena Mendie and Gracie Kindell are on the other side,” Cocanaugher said. “It was a lot of hard work and we all knew what we needed to do.”
Madison Snelson made her first varsity start at goal keeper in place of injured Madelyn Wilcox
Multiple players on both sides are club-ball teammates for Sporting Springfield and Pinnacle.
“Bragging rights things ultimately came down to this game,” Cocanaugher said.
“We know them well,” Palmer said. “There were a lot of club 'mates playing against each other.”
Whether Nixa and Glendale have the chance to meet in the post-season remains to be decided. MSHSAA will release classifications and District pairings for teams in the coming weeks.
“We hope they’re in Class 3 and not in Class 4 because to see them again would be a tough game,” Palmer said. “They’re a team we really respect and they’re going to do some great things. This was a battle of the titans, two great teams going at it.”