COLUMBIA — The Gibault Hawks are looking for some momentum, and sophomore Nikkie Swindle provided it Monday.
Swindle enjoyed her first two-goal game at the varsity level, and sophomore Maddie O'Neill and freshman Hillary Wessel scored one apiece as the Hawks blanked Freeburg 4-0 at Oerter Park.
"My teammates are just really good at hitting me out wide. They helped me through it," said Swindle, a midfielder who has four goals this season. "It feels really good to get those goals."
Swindle's first goal came from deep in the box at 2 minutes, 32 seconds. Her second goal, which made it 2-0, came at 23:10 on a flick from the lower-left corner of the box that glanced off the hands of sophomore goalie Taylor Henschen and under the crossbar.
"I liked the second one because it gave us a little bit of a cushion," Swindle said. "If they score one, you're tied. But when you have two and you're two up ... I liked the second one. I like when I can work hard and then score the goal. I like working for something."
The victory improved Gibault to 8-9-1. The Hawks have one regular-season game remaining, Wednesday against visiting Belleville East, before the Class 1A playoffs begin May 13.
"We hope to take this momentum and move forward with it," said Hawks coach Matt Reeb, whose team is seeded No. 1 in the Anna-Jonesboro Regional and will face Massac County in the first round.
Reeb enjoyed watching Swindle's breakout performance.
"She played a little bit last year for us as a freshman and she got hurt toward the end of the year; I don't know if she even scored last year, but she's come up big several times," Reeb said. "And obviously, tonight was her best game she's produced. She found herself in the right place at the right time and was able to finish.
"She's definitely capable of that. We have a number of girls capable of that. That's what's good about our team. We don't have a superstar player, but we have a lot of good, quality players"
Swindle almost added a third goal, but her shot in the 46th minute clanged off the crossbar and the Midgets (8-11) were able to clear.
Freeburg made several strong runs with the ball, but never managed a quality shot against starting keeper Kendra Davis or backup Kelly Dooley.
"I feel like our biggest struggles are defensively," Midgets coach Julie Klazynski said. "We can generate offense, but defensively, we're very inexperienced; we're kind of young. We let a couple of goals in and then we get very deflated. Then it becomes really hard to get them excited about generating offense when they think they're in such a hole they can't get back out.
"If we get up first, we can really do some great stuff. But we've had some very big defensive issues."
O'Neill's goal in front at 41:47 made it 3-0, and Wessel closed the scoring at 74:13 when she tapped in a loose ball from in front of the right post.
But the damage already was done.
"The second goal (was the big one)," Klazynski said. "The first goal, mentally, yeah, it was one. It was really early and I know it was discouraging for the girls. But we can come back from that. ... Again, mentally, we just don't handle getting down by two. We collapse."