HAMILTON — Talking to Corvallis forward Maria Hickey after her soccer team's 4-2 win against Livingston you'd never guess the 5-foot-2 and super friendly senior was told to "settle down" by the game's referee after a fair but fierce play for the ball late in Friday's kick-off tournament at Hamilton's Athletic Complex.

But Hickey flips some sort of switch when she hits the pitch.

"I see the ball and I want it," Hickey said, explaining her aggressive style of play that led to a goal for the upperclassman after a Corvallis direct kick. "I was kind of angry because the girl (guarding me) just got a yellow card against me, so I just really wanted to go score the goal. We’ve been working on the run when we have a penalty kick, so I just said, 'I’m going to go make this run.'"

Hickey's passion to play is understandable considering her injury history coming into her senior season. Hickey has battled leg injuries every year of her high school career. Sometimes it has been a pulled quad, she said, or a strained hamstring or torn calf muscles. She's rarely been at 100% on the field for three seasons, though she's always tried to gut out games.

"She'd just fight through. She struggled for so long (with injury) but she never quit," Corvallis assistant coach Steve Herbstritt said. "This year she's come in healthy and ready to play — ready to know she can play."

And a healthy Hickey, who played all over the field at striker, defensive-mid, attacking-mid and wing, makes the Blue Devils' attack that much better.

"We have some speed up top and it helps break defenses down," Corvallis coach Dave Molesh said. 

Corvallis got four second-half goals from four different girls to come back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to Livingston. Mikayla King kicked off the scoring for the Blue Devils in the 55th minute, Jessica Boaz added a goal five minutes later and Lauren Criddle scored a go-ahead goal to make it 3-2 in the 75th minute.

Hickey, before her insurance goal in stoppage time, gave Criddle a hug after the score.

"We usually have to calm each other down," Criddle said, chuckling. "I guess we’re both just feisty people."

It's that controlled energy coach Molesh wants to see from his girls, a State A playoff team last year, but a squad just two years removed from a one-win season. 

"At halftime we talked about calming down and getting our spacing right and it started paying off," said Molesh. "...(Hickey and the other upperclassmen) lead by example. It’s the fire to go get the ball and win a game when we were down. We were struggling and that experience level gets them an opportunity to create an environment for the rest of the team that says we can come back."

Hickey had plenty of fire on Friday, and she said the injury bug that has plagued her didn't rear its head after the win. She's been working with trainers to try to stay on top of any injury.

"I feel pretty good, that’s like the first game I’ve made it through without feeling really hurt," she said.

That's good to hear, as Corvallis is most certainly a better team with Hickey on the field.

***

The rest of the Bitterroot mostly fared well in the season opening kick-off tournament at the Hamilton Athletic Complex. The Corvallis boys started off the first half of the school sweep of Livingston with a 2-1 win in Friday's first boys' game.

Both the Hamilton boys and girls had big wins against Libby. The Bronc girls scored on their first possession of the game as they shut out the Loggers, 9-0. The Hamilton boys couldn't hold on to the shutout, but they still won big against Libby, 15-1.

Stevensville took a 1-0 lead against Billings Central, but the Rams scored on a PK in the game's 27th minute and twice more during a lengthy first-half stoppage to take a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish. Stevi's Chance Lester had the Yellowjackets' second goal.

The Billings Central girls, last year's Class A state champions, made for a tough draw for Stevensville, as the Yellowjackets fell 11-0.

Play resumed Saturday. Results from the games will be online at 406mtsports.com and in Wednesday's Ravalli Republic.

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