QUINCY -- Marc Hager gave Abby Pulliam and Alex Severino a couple of minutes to size up the action.
Then he made their return complete.
The first-year Quincy University women's soccer coach used Pulliam, a senior forward, and Severino, a junior midfielder, as the first two subs off the bench Wednesday night in an exhibition game against Culver-Stockton College at Legends Stadium. Both players suffered season-ending knee injuries last season, had their torn anterior cruciate ligaments repaired and successfully survived rehabilitation.
They cleared the first hurdle by participating in practice after the Hawks returned to campus Sunday.
Against the Wildcats, they showed they are back in game form.
Pulliam scored two goals and Severino played physical in the midfield as the Hawks won 3-0. They will play two more exhibitions along with an intrasquad scrimmage prior to the Aug. 30 season opener at Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, Mo.
"First of all, the fact we've had only two days to prepare and it's early, a clean sheet and three goals is all I can really ask for," Hager said. "The effort is always there with this group. It's good to see exactly what (assistant coach Katie Nimitz) and I expected, and that's to be very strong in an attacking sense."
Pulliam and freshman forward Stephanie Estrada each scored in the first half, while senior forward Cassidy Foley set up Pulliam's second goal with a picturesque pass moving forward into the box.
"Amazing," Pulliam said. "It's been a long road to recovery, but it feels very good to be back with all my friends playing the game I love."
To score in her return to the field capped the night.
"I kept saying I just needed to get this first game out of the way to get my confidence back," Pulliam said. "Scoring obviously helped that, but I couldn't have done it without the team having my back."
The Hawks made both Pulliam and Severino feel comfortable.
"It was two good performances from them," Hager said. "Obviously, they're working out the kinks, but at the same time, everybody is working out the kinks."
That's especially true defensively, where senior Gabby Orlando is the only returnee among the back four. Freshman goalkeeper Emilee Autry posted the shutout, making a couple nice saves and controlling the back the way an experienced keeper does.
"What we found tonight is we have a very solid goalkeeper," Hager said. "She showed a lot of maturity. It's nice to have that buffer, but we need to fix the issues in front of her."
The Hawks will step on the field three more times in game situations with the opportunity to do that.