Local high school soccer players to join forces at Columbia College

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COLUMBIA – It all began 12 years ago, when nothing mattered except cartoons, play time, and of course, soccer. Six-year-olds Kelsey Mirts and Molly Klein took the soccer field together for the first time. It would hardly be the last.

“I started playing with Kelsey when I was like six, and I just always remember playing at Cosmo and playing on those small fields,” Klein said.

Each player was gifted from an early age. Mirts is now Hickman High School’s all-time leading goal scorer. This high skill level made them inseparable on the soccer field. However, it wasn’t until another gifted player, Lucy Kingsley, entered the fold, that something truly special developed.

“The best memories are when Lucy came, because all three of us just immediately clicked,” Mirts said.

Kingsley joined the two girls on the Columbia Courage when she was in third grade, and the rest, as they say, is history. The trio has played on the same travel team together every summer since. During the girls’ freshman year at Hickman High School, they made it clear they were here to stay. However, Klein wasn’t. 

Her family moved and she ended up going to Rock Bridge High School as a result. Therefore, a couple times a year, she faces Mirts and Kingsley.

“It’s weird, but we’re really competitive, so it’s fun to get out there and compete against each other,” Klein said.

In the Fall, the trio will be reunited for good. All three of them chose Columbia College as the next stop in their soccer careers.

“I never really thought it would happen, but we had an idea of it,” Klein said.

The girls said this was always the goal, although they didn’t actually talk about the possibility all that much.

“This has always been in our minds ever since we were really little, so it’s exciting that it’s actually coming together,” Kingsley said.

Things started coming together around sophomore or junior year, the girls said, and earlier this school year, the trio made it official; they would all become Columbia Cougars. That sounds an awful lot like the girls' first team, the Columbia Courage.

Klein had a pretty compelling reason to attend the school. And the school had a pretty big recruiting advantage as well. 

“At dinner on a napkin, I wrote down a scholarship number for her. It was in a joking manner, but I think she used to want me to recruit her...and the next thing you know, finally, she decided this was the place," said John Klein, Columbia's head women's soccer coach. 

Coach Klein is also Molly's dad and accepted the Columbia soccer head coach position for the men's team when Molly was just a baby.

While Columbia certainly seemed like an obvious destination for Klein, she said it wasn’t always a foregone conclusion she would go there.

“He kind of let me do my own thing for a bit. He let me know I had other options, but it was always kind of had it in my back pocket,” Klein said. 

Mirts and Kingsley are familiar with Coach Klein as well; he has been their coach during the summers from the time they were young. The girls said that familiarity will allow them to hit the ground running as freshman. 

In the end, it’s familiarity that is what it came down to. 

“I’m not really one to change,” Klein said.

That makes sense based on how things have gone the last 12 years.

The trio now has a chance to do something not many childhood friends get to do. They get to go to the same college, they get to play on the same soccer team, and they get to stay close to home while doing it. 

They also have the chance to finish what they started on the small fields at Cosmo more than a decade ago, when all that mattered was cartoons and play time. Oh, and soccer. To these three, it’s safe to say that still matters too.