The Hannibal boys soccer team was victorious 5-3 in its North Central Missouri Conference opener against rival Kirksville on Tuesday.

The Hannibal boys soccer team was victorious 5-3 in its North Central Missouri Conference opener against rival Kirksville on Tuesday.

The Pirates surged ahead with three goals in the first half at Veterans Sports Complex. 

Adam Albright and Nathan DeStefane each scored a pair of goals in the match to boost the Pirates to their first NCMC win of the season.

“Knowing how tight both of our games were with Kirksville last season really had the guys prepared,” said Hannibal coach Eric Hill of two overtime wins a year ago. 

The Pirates, coming off their first-ever unbeaten run to the conference title last year, defeated Elsberry on Friday in their only live action of the season before the showdown against the perennially-contending Tigers.

Albright set the tone for the hosts. The senior found an opening in the defense in the 20th minute and struck the back of the net to ignite the Pirate offense. 

DeStefane followed in the 30th minute with a goal of his own, and Trevauhn Jenkins scored to finish off the half in the 37th minute on a play assisted by Albright.

Hannibal led 3-0 at the intermission.

“We moved the ball pretty well in the first half,” said Albright. “We were nervous about going into overtime but we made sure of things in the first half.”

Albright and DeStefane added another tally a piece in the second half, with Collin Poage and Tristen Terrill contributing the assists.

All three of the Tiger goals came after halftime. Da’Sohn Hatfield, Noah Kizzire and Remerdie Ndiang found the back of the net to keep the visitors within striking distance.

Kirksville outscored the Pirates 3-2 in the second half but could not pull off the comeback. 

Hannibal outshot Kirksville 21-12 for the match. 

The Pirates began to fatigue late in the game, but the play of senior defender Caleb Ketsenburg kept the squad poised under pressure.

“I believe it was big to control everything in the back against a team like Kirksville,” said Ketsenburg. “This game meant a lot because this set the tone for hopefully another conference run.”

The NCMC appears to be a three-team race for the crown this year, according to Hill.

“It is probably going to come down to us, Kirksville and Marshall competing for the title,” said Hill. “The guys knew today was a chance to get a leg up in the conference and set the tone.” 

The Pirates (2-0) look to continue their success in a home tournament this weekend, which opens Friday night with a match against Maplewood.