It was about the same time that Jared Cruddas and Matthew Watt said they knew they had a player who was ready to contribute last season just one year removed from junior high.
“Day 1,” Cruddas said referring to Gracie Grimm. “She can play with the boys.”
“Day 1,” Watt said in reference to Lulu Moreno. “It was pretty visible.”
While Grimm was leading Harker Heights in scoring in her first year of high school competition, Moreno, also a freshman, was doing the same at Ellison.
Because of that, Grimm and Moreno are the Killeen Daily Herald Co-Newcomers of the Year.
That Heights and Ellison both had players like Grimm and Moreno in the same season is incredible considering how highly Cruddas and Watt speak of them.
It simply isn’t often that a player like Grimm or Moreno comes along.
“She’s very fast and aggressive. Her skill is above average. She just has an ability to cut on a dime and then continue at the same speed she was traveling,” Cruddas said of Grimm. “It’s incredible.”
Watt said Moreno was just as impressive playing against her classmates before the season began.
Eventually, Watt had to relent and moved Moreno up to the varsity where she belonged.
“Once she stepped in the varsity period, she immediately became one of the top players,” Watt said.
The season Moreno had wasn’t just one of the best in District 8-5A but also a personal best as well.
“It was really fun because, before, I’d never really scored as many goals as I did this season,” Moreno said. “Just the feeling of scoring so many goals, it was just awesome.”
Moreno also said playing alongside Alyssa Conde, the Lady Eagles’ leading returning scorer from the year before, was a treat as well.
Ellison certainly appreciated having the duo on the field together.
“Just for the course of the season, for us to have a second scoring threat alongside Alyssa makes all the difference in the world,” Watt said.
Grimm, meanwhile, helped Heights rally for a playoff spot after winning just two games in the first half of district play.
And Cruddas said Grimm and her improvement on the field were a big reason for the Lady Knights’ turnaround.
“It wasn’t until the second half of district play when we had five wins that we flipped the script,” Cruddas said. “Those shots she was taking were hitting the back of the net.”
For Grimm, making the playoffs in her first varsity season was a highlight of her season.
“It was an amazing experience,” Grimm said. “I was really proud of my team.”
Both players acknowledged that they became aware of each other as the season wore on.
Moreno called it fun competition.
Grimm said it was cool to have someone in Killeen ISD playing a similar role in her inaugural season.
Either way, it is clear that the two have the same respect for each other that they both earned from the rest of the district in just one year of varsity soccer.
“I heard she was really good and she was a great player,” Grimm said, “and she is.”