Mizzou soccer team passes “gut check” with 4-2 pasting of Purdue


Story by Darren Hellwege, photos by Kelsey Alumbaugh

*Correction: this version of the story corrects the spelling of Bryan Blitz and the academic year of Dominique Richardson.

Alyssa Diggs (14) attempts to score for MU. Diggs scored the fourth and final goal of the game against Purdue. (Photo by Kelsey Alumbaugh)

For MU head soccer coach Bryan Blitz, today wasn’t just a game.  It was the completion of a campaign.

“We talk about weekend campaigns, putting two games together,” Blitz said.  “These Sunday games can be a gut check, who has the most will to win.”

If that’s the case, when it comes to guts, you can confirm it, Mizzou’s got them.  The Tigers followed Friday night’s thrilling upset of No. 7 Ohio State with a 4-2 victory over Purdue on Sunday.  The win lifts the Tigers to 3-1 on the season.

The Tigers first showed their mettle with a quick response when Purdue scored first. Alexis Tryba scored in the 20th minute to give the Boilermakers the advantage. Mizzou had dominated the early play and had already let several scoring chances slip through their fingers. Often a team in that position will let down in frustration after falling behind.

A team without guts.  Not the Tigers.

Less than five minutes later the Tigers tied the game.  While Abi Raymer got the final touch and the box score shows her with the goal, it was a true team effort.  As the Tiger forwards launched a blitz at the Purdue goal, Haley Krentz fired a shot that missed by inches.  It bounced off the bottom part of the crossbar and bounced up just enough for Raymer to slide in and put it away, tying the score.  Danielle Nottingham called the goal a statement.

The Tigers remained in a very aggressive, attacking posture and nearly made it a blowout. The shot that hit the crossbar by Krentz was just one of five Tiger shots that caromed off the crossbar in the first 30 minutes of action.  It could have been troubling, coming that close and continuing to miss.  Sophomore Dominique Richardson said, “You’ve got to keep knocking on the door, you can’t get frustrated, just keep playing through it.”

After the game Blitz said he knew that if the Tigers kept getting those opportunities, eventually they would score.

He was right.  In the 35th minute, junior Kelsey Mulcahy put a cross into the box, which Dominique Richardson deftly headed into the goal to put Mizzou on top 2-1.

Missouri dominated play in this game, had a lead, and the team could have sat on the lead and coasted through the second half.

A team without guts.  Not the Tigers.

In the 50th minute, Danielle Nottingham made a great run up the right side of the field.  Free from defenders, she might have settled for a long shot, but instead dribbled in close to the goal, blasting the ball past Purdue goal keeper Clara Kridler to give Mizzou a commanding 3-1 lead.

“Coach Blitz has been telling me to dribble in closer instead of taking those long shots,” Nottingham said.

The two-goal lead stood for some time, but Purdue kept fighting back and in the 75th minute got a goal out of Kaitlyn Blacha, making the score 3-2.  Still, with a lead and less than 15 minutes to go, a team could have slowed things down, packed the defense around the goal, and tried to ride out the final 15 minutes.

A team without guts.  Not the Tigers.

As was the case after Purdue’s first goal, Mizzou struck back almost immediately.  Kaysie Clark found Alyssa Diggs open and Diggs notched her second goal of the season in the 79th minute.  And while both teams made long, exciting runs and got shots off in the final few minutes, the Tigers held the lead for their third win in a row.

McKenzie Sauerwein played the entire game in goal, as she did Friday in picking up a shutout against Ohio State, in which she played an outstanding game.  Still, when asked if Sauerwein had won the job permanently, Blitz said, “No.”

“We’ll get back to practice.  Caroline (Stanley) is just too talented.  She will have a say.” Stanley, a freshman, has been sharing time with Sauerwein in goal this season.

The Tigers won the weekend campaign by beating two Big Ten teams. While Ohio State is a defending Final Four team ranked in the top 10 nationally, Purdue is somewhat less threatening.  The Boilermakers have made six trips to the NCAA tournament in the last 10 years, but had a rough time last season, going just 6-12-2.  With Sunday’s loss, Purdue now has only one win against three losses in 2011.

The Tigers will be back in Walton Stadium Friday night, hosting Northern Arizona, with a 6:30 p.m. start. It will be their final home game before taking off for a rugged road swing, which starts with a trip to Fort Worth to battle the Horned Frogs of TCU. They visit Tempe, Ariz., to play both Arizona and Arizona State.  Arizona State in particular will be stiff competition for this young Tiger team.

They will then return home to face another top-10 team when they host the Florida Gators. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America ranks Florida No. 8 in the most recent poll.  It’s a schedule that might scare an inexperienced team.

A team without guts.  Not the Tigers.

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