HARKER HEIGHTS — After falling to Ellison in a shutout earlier in league play, Harker Heights head coach Jared Cruddas said his team didn’t change its strategy at all for the rematch Tuesday.
“We didn’t change anything,” Cruddas said. “The only thing that changed was hitting the back of the net.”
Gracie Grimm played a big part in that as the freshman continued her red-hot play with her second straight hat trick and Heights avenged its loss to Ellison with a 4-0 home win on Tuesday.
The win gives Heights (8-9, 6-5 8-5A) the points edge over Ellison for the fourth and final playoff spot in 8-5A as the regular season winds down.
Now the Lady Knights are riding a wave of momentum after winning their last two games by a combined score of 8-0.
“They played a good game, but our girls, they’ve been working since July,” Cruddas said. “And they’ve been working for one reason. And all the credit goes to them. We’ve got 14 girls on the team, and they all played exceptionally tonight.”
Grimm got the scoring going early with a Casey Cox-assisted goal in the 14th minute.
Ten minutes later, Heights was on the board again when senior Kaylee Kellam raced up the right sideline on a counter then sent a perfect cross just past the diving keeper, which Grimm put in for a 2-0 lead.
After being shut out in the first meeting, the early lead was a relief for the host Lady Knights.
“We started playing more relaxed, and it starts being more fun,” senior Blake Stender said.
Heights goalie Caitlin Dumond has also been playing well of late and continued that with a spectacular save late in the first half.
After saving one close shot on the right side of the net, Dumond popped up and dove to save the rebound as well, leaving Ellison with nothing to show for what looked like a certain goal.
“I don’t even know,” Dumond said of the play afterwards. “I just watched and looked for the ball, and it happened to come at my hands. And I caught it.”
“She’s amazing,” Grimm added.
For Ellison, it was one of many missed opportunities, but head coach Matthew Watt wasn’t upset about the loss.
“First half, if we had gotten one of those two or one of those three that had been that close it might have been a different game,” he said. “But by the end of it, being down 3-0, the missed post doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
Not even five minutes into the second half, Grimm completed her hat trick with a deep shot that lofted in just over the keeper for a 3-0 lead.
Grimm, who now has a team-high 14 goals on the season, scored nearly half of that total in the last two games.
“I was so happy,” she said. “But it was all because of my team. I was just there to finish it.”
Stender added the exclamation point with 2:12 remaining in the game on a high shot of her own to put Heights up 4-0.
And now, with the regular season winding down and Heights clinging to a slim lead in the playoff race, the Lady Knights are hoping for a different kind of exclamation point to the season.
“We haven’t made it to the playoffs in a long time,” Stender said. “I’m a senior, so it would be a complete senior year if we could make it to the playoffs.”
Contact Jordan Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7562