Midfielder Haley Krentz (4), shown here against Arizona State on Aug. 31, 2012, is one of the seniors Missouri loses this year.
As the year 2012 winds down, fall sports have come to an end, and basketball and the rest of the winter sports take the week off for finals. It seemed a good time to look back over some of the fall sports at Mizzou and look forward to next season.
Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator
Of the major fall sports at MU similarities can be seen as the teams, all coached by long-time successes, saw disappointing seasons. But the teams, the MU football program under Gary Pinkel, Bryan Blitz’s soccer team and the volleyball team of Wayne Kreklow, have a lot of talent returning after recent recruiting successes. Reasons exist for fans of all these Tiger teams to optimistically look forward to 2013.
It was one of the more disappointing seasons of recent memory for Missouri football, as the Tigers’ first year in the Southeastern Conference ended with a 5-7 record. But the record only tells part of the story, as the Tigers suffered through a remarkable string of injuries, particularly to offensive linemen, and many weekends without a healthy James Franklin. They did not play to their potential but it’s hard to blame the players or coaches for the rough season when so much goes wrong that is out of anyone’s control.
The Tigers should have a stronger offense in 2013 with Franklin returning and hopefully healthy again. Missouri loses some real talent on the offensive line but a healthier line should be a plus and, because of the injuries this year, a lot of younger guys got more experience than they would have otherwise.
Missouri loses the most consistent offensive player in RB Kendial Lawrence, but look forward to the return of Henry Josey, and will have several good ends, lead by Dorial Green-Beckham, who really started to shine late in 2012. The one real loss for the offense is the resignation of offensive coordinator David Yost.
On the other hand, there are losses on the defensive side of the ball that will be more difficult to address. There are some good defensive linemen on the team, but none to match Sheldon Richardson, who announced recently he’s leaving early to play in the NFL.
The linebacker position loses two great ones in Zavier Gooden and Will Ebner, but Andrew Wilson returns and with Darvin Ruise and Kentrell Brothers coming up, there are adequate replacements. Replacing E.J. Gaines may be more difficult, as Randy Ponder showed an ability to be a big hitter but was inconsistent in coverage. The graduation of Kenronte Walker costs Missouri a talented safety and leadership in the secondary.
The schedule should be a little easier to navigate, as well. Yeah, they still face the monsters of the SEC East in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida but their schedule out of the West gets much easier, with Alabama replaced by Ole Miss. The Tigers get Florida, USC, and Texas A&M at home next year.
With an easier schedule and barring another disaster (or, rather, series of disasters) on the line, the Tigers should be much more successful in 2013. Looking back, this team was far closer to being 9-3 than anyone in black and gold wants to think about. A healthy line, a healthy Franklin, and this year could have been very, very different.
Season highlight: The four-overtime win at Tennessee. James Franklin at his best down the stretch, and a couple of big catches that made Tiger fans realize what they had in D.G.B.
Season low: There were several, let’s call the worst a tie between the blowout loss at South Carolina in which the Tigers never looked competitive and a loss at home to a team they should have beaten, Vanderbilt.
Also a frustrating season. For the second year in a row the Tigers started strong but faded badly down the stretch. Once ranked in the top 10 nationally, Missouri lost four of their last five in the regular season. After playing Florida to a tight 2-1 loss, the Tigers were clobbered by the Gators 3-0 in the SEC tourney, and made little of hosting an NCAA tournament game, losing in penalty kicks to Illinois.
The team loses some talented seniors, with the back line particularly hard hit with solid defenders Allison Hu and Kelsey Mulcahy done. But overall the team returns a good deal of talent and strong recruiting means the team should be at least as strong in 2013. Now, the team just has to learn how to win in October and November.
Season highlight: Possibly the opener, a 5-1 win over highly ranked Memphis. But the first weekend in October had two impressive SEC victories at home with good fan support. Sadly, they were the last home victories of the season.
Season low: Losing to two .500 teams in the final weekend of the season. Arkansas’ record was somewhat misleading; they were a talented but inconsistent team. But there’s no way Missouri should have lost on Senior Day to LSU. The team just seemed to run out of gas. Only a win over Kentucky in the SEC tourney kept the last month of the year from being a total wash.
For some time now, it’s appeared that the two anchors of this team reaching their senior year and the development of a couple of strong recent recruiting classes meant 2013 was the year to look forward to. But, for a while this year, there were appearances that they might mature early and 2012 would yield a very good team. Unfortunately, depth became a major problem when Taylor Simpson walked off the team just as she was starting to really look like a major contributor and Niki Collier took a personal leave that ended up lasting the rest of the season. Coach Wayne Kreklow spent the rest of the season playing freshmen more than he wanted and just trying to keep six healthy bodies on the floor.
Now comes the year for which we’ve been waiting. Molly Kreklow and Lisa Henning will be seniors, Katie O’Brien should return after losing the entire 2012 season to injury, and a maturing supporting cast with excellent players like Emily Wilson and Sarah Meister should make this one of the teams to beat in the SEC.
Season highlight: No question, beating Tennessee in five sets at home was one of the most thrilling moments for any MU sports team this fall.
Season low: Like soccer, it has to be the final weekend. Kentucky exploited the Tigers’ weaknesses and made them look bad in a sweep, then the Tigers finished with a loss to an Alabama team they really should have beaten.