In Missouri’s first game as a Southeastern Conference member, the soccer team blew past No. 14 Memphis 5-1 on Friday night in front of 1,169 fans, the sixth largest attendance in program history.
“I think (this game) was a test of our character,” junior forward Alyssa Diggs said. “I’m really proud of our team because they stepped up to the challenge and got the job done.”
The Tigers’ high-octane attack didn’t really get going in the first half. Missouri’s defense silenced Memphis and powered the first goal of the game. Freshman defenseman Candace Johnson drove home a goal to the left side of the net off a senior midfielder Haley Krentz corner.
The team failed to score the rest of the half.
“We made a shape change from our traditional 3-4-3,” said coach Bryan Blitz, who wanted to add more defense after losing 4-0 to Southern Methodist in a preseason game. “We played four back and three in the midfield (tonight). So I think that took them some time to do that.”
Blitz tried to inspire the team in between halves.
“I just said, ‘Hey, it’s unfair that the defense has to win games for us. … We have to buck it up out there. It’s our time,’” Blitz said. “And they took it to heart.”
The inspiration paid off. Five minutes into the second half, senior Taiwo Adeshigbin ripped a shot into the right corner of the net from the top of the box.
The goal was Adeshigbin’s first as a Tiger, even after playing several games last season.
“I think I definitely have a different mindset,” Adeshigbin said while holding celebratory chocolates in her hand after the game. “Going into each game, we know it’s tough to put goals into the back of the net against great teams. … But I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
Down two tallies, Memphis came back 50 seconds later. Forward Tine Schryvers took a loft pass and bounced it off the top bar to dwindle the lead to one goal.
Tigers’ keeper McKenzie Sauerwein kept Memphis in check after the goal.
“I think she was mistake-free,” Blitz said. “She was tidy. She didn’t beat herself or the team.”
Missouri responded five minutes later when Adeshigbin bent low and delivered a header into the net.
Offensively, the Tigers didn’t let up. Several minutes later, Diggs booted a pair of goals within seconds of each other.
On the first goal, sophomore midfielder Abi Raymer slid a pass to Diggs, who scored in the right side of the net.
The second goal came by way of a junior defenseman Danielle Nottingham free kick and ended up in the lower left part of the goal.
“It was like a blur,” Diggs said. “Apparently I had some weird celebrations. I heard I was lassoing and jumping. Crazy stuff. It was an adrenaline rush.”
Missouri will square off against UC Santa Barbra at 1 p.m. on Sunday with its offensively charged team at Walton Stadium.
“We learned a good lesson from SMU that winning is hard,” Blitz said. “We showed that today that we learned that lesson. It’s a good Memphis team. I know they’ll be there until the end. But it will carry us through until Sunday.”