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Smith's first career goal a game-winner in Lady Eagles' victory versus Kickapoo


Sophomore defender Bria Smith couldn’t have picked a better time for her first career varsity goal.

Smith provided the game-winning score in Nixa’s long-awaited 2-1 triumph versus Kickapoo on Thursday. 

She scored on a header after receiving a perfectly-placed corner kick from Shaelee Franck. By design, the 5-foot-9 Smith was positioned at the front post to give Franck a tall target to hit toward.

“It's good for us to get it to the front post because we have a lot of people who can head the ball and we practice that a lot,” Smith said. "When Shaelee played it, I thought, 'That's a really good ball and I need to get at the end of that.’ 

“It was good to get the header and the win, it was all teamwork,” she added. “Shaelee is amazing at corners. It was a perfect pass, it just grazed off of me.”

Franck handles Nixa’s corner kick duties when her left foot is outside the ball. She is very capable kicking with either foot, but considers her left foot her strongest. Thus, it obviously worked out well for the Lady Eagles that she kicked the ball in bounds from the east side of the field, giving Smith the chance to put the ball in the back of the net on the north end.

“I love taking the corners on the left,” Franck said. “I've taken a lot of corners this season and that happened to be one of my better ones. I’m glad (coach Evan Palmer) let me take them this game because I was feeling confident today.”

"On the left side, she puts a really good ball in,” Palmer said. “You put the ball in a dangerous spot like that and good things are going to happen. We want to put one of our tall girls (at the front post) and when the ball comes in, just have them flick that thing in.”

Franck could tell by watching the trajectory of her kick that Smith was in the right spot at the right time.

“I tried to get a curve on the ball to the front post," Franck said. “I saw Bria was there and knew she was going to get it in.”

Franck even handled corner kick duties as a freshman a year ago.

“I've pretty much taken them my whole life,” she said. “We have a lot of girls with a strong foot. Some of our corners are really good. It takes a strong foot and confidence.”

Franck scored Nixa’s first goal herself, breaking a scoreless tie.

"She's having a great year,” Palmer said.

Both of the Lady Eagles' goals came within the first 10 minutes of the second half.

At halftime, Palmer emphasized to his players he thought they were tense in the first half and encouraged them to shake off their nerves.

“We had to get them to calm down and play their game,” he said. “First half, we played very tentative. When you play not to screw up, you don't play well. You've got to play free and be yourself. Get the ball, pass and move. We did a much better job of that in the second half.”

Nixa’s defense was strong enough to keep Kickapoo at bay down the stretch. The Lady Chiefs were on the attack for the great majority of the final 30 minutes.

“We need to finish games better, (but) we held on,” Palmer said. “They've got some girls who push forward and can score. It's a battle with them. They've got a great team and we've got a great team.”

“Their attackers are really good and fast,” Smith said. “Kickapoo is a technically good team. They wanted to win just as much as we did. With them coming at us, it was definitely a challenge. Our defense played well together and communicated well. I knew we could handle it. Emotions and adrenaline were running through us the whole game.”

Nixa (7-1) hadn’t beaten Kickapoo since 2021.

"It's been a while,” Franck said. “I’m really happy we won this one. We have a boost of confidence.”