In its final home game of the regular season, the Missouri women’s soccer team fell once more to a Southeastern Conference foe lower in the league standings, losing 3-1 to Louisiana State.
LSU completely outran the Tigers (13-5, 8-4 SEC), scoring three unanswered goals and stymying a 25-shot offensive attack to hand Missouri its first weekend sweep at home in two years. Arkansas handed the Tigers their first home loss of the season Friday night, 2-1.
“These teams played more desperately than we did, and they got the wins,” coach Brian Blitz said. “They raised their level of physical play in both games and we didn’t match it. I think we played hard, but they played harder.”
Sophomore midfielder Kaysie Clark put Missouri up 1-0 early, beating four defenders by herself on her way into the box, where she tapped a shot past LSU keeper Megan Kinneman with her left foot.
It was all LSU after that.
Just 24 seconds after Clark’s goal, LSU’s Victoria Sample found herself in Missouri territory and lobbed a shot over the head of keeper McKenzie Sauerwein to knot up the score. Colby Maffei put LSU ahead 14 minutes later on a cutting header off a cross from Fernanda Pina.
“I take complete responsibility for that second goal,” said senior midfielder Jessica Greer, who was assigned to Pina. “I wasn’t completely touch-tight. That girl got to the ball before I did.”
While the visiting Tigers thrived on efficiency (three goals on 12 shots) the home team was doomed by its lack of it. Missouri blasted shots from all over the field; all but one of the 25 its attempted found an opposing player, the crossbar, or out of bounds.
There frustration seemed to culminate in the second half. Still down by just one in the 57th minute, junior forward Alyssa Diggs unleashed a mammoth kick from inside the box that ricocheted off Kinneman and shot straight to senior midfielder Haley Krentz. Krentz, who was even closer to the net, barely had time to react to the ball, which banged off her foot and right back into Kinneman’s arms.
A few minutes later, Kinneman and her back line stopped another trio of Missouri shots.
LSU’s Danielle Murphy scored an insurance goal for the guests in the 64th minute to make the score 3-1.
“There are some things we need to work on,” Blitz said. “We lost two games because we got out-competed physically. We hadn’t seen that in a while.”
The three goals is the most Missouri has surrendered since an exhibition game against Southern Methodist back in August. The Tigers were outscored 5-2 this weekend, a majority of which they played without freshman defender Candace Johnson, who injured her quad Friday night and sat Sunday.
Blitz said he can’t blame the losses on Johnson’s absence, even if the numbers indicate his defense is much worse without her.
“Are we better when she’s back? Yeah,” he said. “But every team has injuries. I don’t think that’s an excuse we can use.”
Senior forward Taiwo Adeshigbin said her team has lost focus on the details of the game, details that were the reason the Tigers were so successful earlier in the year.
“We need to tone up on some of the little errors we’re making,” she said. “I felt today we put in the effort. We just need to more composed when we get our chances at goal.”
Time is running out for seniors like Adeshigbin and Greer. Sunday marked their last scheduled regular season home game. Missouri wore pink uniforms in honor of breast cancer awareness, and the team held a ceremony for its seniors post-match.
Just over a week ago, Missouri sat tied atop the SEC East with Florida at 7-1 in conference and looked like a lock to host an NCAA Tournament game, maybe even two. Four games later, the Tigers have dropped three matches and fallen to third in the division behind the Gators and Tennessee.
They finish the regular season Thursday in College Station against No. 9 Texas A&M.
“We’ve stepped off our path just a little bit,” said Greer. “The fire is there. We just need to find it again.”