The Tigers women's soccer team has a major hurdle ahead of them entering the 2009 season — topping 2008.
Last year was the best season in Tiger soccer history, as the team won the Big 12 Conference championship and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Finishing with a 16-5-2 record, they were ranked as high as fifth in the nation.
Now it is up to the 2009 Tigers to take the program to a higher level.
"Last year we could sneak up on people," coach Bryan Blitz said. "[This year] pressure is a privilege."
Seven seniors return to provide experience and leadership for the squad, along with four juniors.
Senior forward Kristin Andrighetto returns as one of the most decorated players in school history. She has made the all-Big 12 team in each of the last two seasons and is the second player in Missouri history to make the team twice. Andrighetto enters 2009 with the sixth most goals in Tiger history.
She had seven last year, good for second on the team.
"We have a target on our back," Andrighetto said. "We're not the underdog anymore."
Also returning is junior Alysha Bonnick. The forward won Big 12 Rookie of the Year honors in 2007 and was named to the all-Big 12 team a year ago.
This year she has been placed on the Hermann Trophy watch list.
"It was a huge surprise," Bonnick said about her placement on the list. "I'm still surprised."
There are plenty of new faces, too.
Ten freshmen join the Tigers for the 2009 campaign, including in-state products midfielder/defender Jessica Greer and midfielder Edith Lopez. In fact, freshmen are the most represented class on the Tiger roster.
Big 12 coaches certainly see the Tigers continuing their success. Missouri tied for first in the Big 12 soccer preseason poll with Texas A&M, making the two schools co-favorites to win the conference.
The Tigers were well represented in the coaches' preseason all-conference team. Defender Crystal Wagner, midfielder Meghan Pfeiffer and Andrighetto, all seniors, were named to the team.
Missouri is getting national attention as well. Soccer America ranked the Tigers 13th in their preseason poll.
Conference foes Texas A&M, Colorado and Oklahoma State also made the top 25, ranking at ninth, 17th and 24th respectively.
"We want to be blue collar," Blitz said. "[Fans] can look for the same blue collar work ethic. We want to represent Mizzou and the people of the state by being aggressive and working as hard as we can."
The Tigers already have one game in the books. They toppled Iowa in Iowa City 3-2 Friday in the team's season opener.
The score was tied at 1-1 after the first half, but the Tigers outscored the Hawkeyes in the second to earn the win.
Andrighetto, senior forward Michelle Collins and sophomore forward/midfielder Jessie Crabtree scored goals for Missouri.
Senior goalkeeper Tasha Dittamore stopped four shots on goal. Missouri took 11 shots in the second half compared to Iowa's four and buried the Hawkeyes late.
Missouri hosts the Northwestern Wildcats on Friday night in the home opener at Walton Stadium.