Columbia coach Jamey Bridges makes no bones about it, junior midfielder Hailey Glover has an IQ for the game that few her age can match.
It has paid dividends for Glover, who has a team-high 23 goals including five game-winners and 12 assists, and the Eagles, who are on the cusp of program history.
“Hailey brings a toughness, obvious skill and a versatility,” Bridges said. “She is so (valuable) being able to play a couple of positions. You game plan for her, scout her and think, 'Oh, she's going to play up top,' and we put her on the wing. She's dangerous with her speed. What makes her so very dangerous is that she can score from either side and she's a dangerous passer, as well. To me, she's just the complete package.”
The 'complete package' will line up with her teammates as Columbia (24-2-1) faces Decatur St. Teresa (21-2-2) at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 1A Columbia Super-Sectional at home.
Glover noticed she needed to start playing a bigger role after opponents started putting extra pressure on forward Kennedy Jones, who scored 51 goals as a junior.
“I knew I was going to step up because, at times, Kennedy wasn't going to be able to do what she's really good at doing,” Glover said. “I decided that I was going to work my hardest at it (being a scorer people could count on) and I did it.”
Glover is far from the only one that can find the net on a loaded Columbia roster.
Glover and Jones, who has 19 goals and 10 assists have helped lead the Eagles' balanced attack, with help from Fae Harrell (18 goals, 13 assists) and Chloe Graff (15 goals, 19 assists).
“She's definitely stepped up and she knows her role and she patrols it very nicely,” Bridges said of Glover. “She worked hard in the offseason. She and Chloe have both really stepped up. You can man-mark Kennedy but you then realize you've got a couple other (great players) to worry about as well. That's what makes us dangerous.”
With a spot in the state semifinals on the line, Glover said she's excited to be a cog in the Eagles' scoring machine.
She attributes all of her six multi-goal games to her teammates.
“It really helps that the entire team has come together really well and the girls just know what I'm going to do,” Glover said. “I feel like I'm a very (technically sound) player and they understand that fact. They know that I am going to go forward and, hopefully, get past people and go to the goal. They work hard to find me and I also work hard to either finish or find someone else.
“I've really tried to fulfill the role they need me to fill,” Glover said. “To know that everyone appreciates what I do is awesome.”
But Glover and Columbia are looking forward, beginning with a quick scout of St. Teresa over the weekend.
“We saw them play yesterday and I have seen some video,” Bridges said. “We saw them play on grass. It's going to be a different game, playing it on turf. We know a little bit. (Similar) opponents and just looking at that kind of stuff.”
The Eagles will have to mark St. Teresa senior forward Camryn Wagner, who has 23 goals to account for roughly 25 percent of the Bulldogs' offense.
Columbia reached the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2008, but Glover is hoping to help the Eagles reach the state tournament for the first time in school history.
“It's pretty big and we're all excited,” Glover said. “Hopefully we can keep on going. We have seven seniors we want to do this for right now. We've been close with some very solid teams, but never have we been this close. We want it for them.”