Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – It had been nearly two years since Grace Heddens played a soccer match on the turf at Liberty High.
To be exact there were 683 days between Liberty High’s 4-0 regional win over Keokuk in 2019 in which Heddens scored three games.
Heddens picked up right where she left off in her return to action on Tuesday.
Heddens posted a hat trick as Liberty High opened the season with a 6-1 win over Mid-Prairie in the season opener for both teams under the lights at Liberty Stadium.
“It felt amazing to be back out there and especially to get out here under the lights it felt amazing,” Heddens said. “My last time playing on this field was my first hat trick so I had to do it tonight for old time sake.”
As a freshman in 2019 Heddens scored a team-high seven goals, including a career-best three in the regional quarterfinal win over Keokuk.
Heddens had to do a lot of waiting for an opportunity for an encore.
After having her sophomore season wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic Heddens got right back to work on Tuesday.
Heddens scored her first goal less than five minutes into the game and scored all three of her goals in the opening 18 minutes as Liberty High built a 5-0 halftime lead.
“Once I got that first goal in it got the ball rolling,” Heddens said. “We are just going to go up from here.”
Elise Hermiston, Bella Gasparoni and Adolphine Kanyiki each added goals as Liberty High improved to 3-0 all-time in season openers.
“It was great to be back on the field and it was a beautiful evening too and that makes it even better because usually the first few games of the year we are wearing jackets and hats,” Liberty High coach Frank Fiordellisi said. “It’s just awesome to be back, especially for these girls.”
Heddens got things started when she took a through ball and beat Mid-Prairie keeper Ainsley Lueck for a goal with 35:47 left in the opening half.
That was just the start.
Heddens added to the lead with her second goal just six minutes later blasting a shot from inside the box off the hands of the keeper and into the corner of the goal.
“They were hungry, you could definitely tell that,” Fiordellisi said. “We just wanted them to go out and have fun, we hadn’t played in two years and we started off great putting in a couple of goals in right away but it was great to see them out there playing again.”
Gasparoni made it 3-0 with a goal in the 12th minute and Heddens completed the hat trick less than six minutes later on a breakaway.
Hermiston tacked on a goal with 2:29 left in the first half to put Liberty High up 5-0 at the half.
“That was a big confidence booster to start off the season and get some goals right away,” Hermiston said. “That really gave us some confidence for the games ahead of us.”
Kanyiki capped the Liberty High scoring with a goal on a breakaway with 9:32 left putting Liberty High up 6-0.
“There were several players that stepped up,” Fiordellisi said. “Some of our defenders that did a great job tonight so I was excited.”
One of the few things to go wrong for the Lightning on Tuesday came late in the first half when Heddens was sent to the sidelines after receiving a red card.
Despite the early exit from Heddens which caused Liberty High to play down a player for the final half there were plenty of positives to take away.
Liberty High hosts Central DeWitt on Thursday.
“I think we have the strength and the athleticism to keep up,” Hermiston said. “We are just going to have to work on our touches and keeping possession of the ball and just progressing as a team.”