The good news for Missouri coach Brian Blitz: His team is 5-1 and nationally ranked going into its Southeastern Conference opener Friday at Auburn. The bad news: junior forward Alyssa Diggs, an All-Big 12 Conference first-team selection last year, hasn’t played since injuring her hamstring against UC Santa Barbara more than three weeks ago.
But Diggs participated in her first full practice, except for post-practice sprints, since the injury on Monday and, barring a setback, will be back in the starting lineup Saturday against Auburn, according to Blitz.
“She probably could have went to Ohio State,” Blitz said, referring to the Tigers' 1-0 overtime loss to the Buckeyes last Thursday. “She was cleared. But our rules are that you need to have two really good practices in a row. We didn’t have enough time to get two practices in that week.”
Diggs pulled her left hamstring chasing a defender down the sideline Aug. 19, just a few minutes after her third goal in two games put the Tigers up 2-0 against Santa Barbara. The 5-foot-4-inch native of Coppell, Texas, who was not available for comment, has a history of hamstring problems. But when she’s healthy, Diggs adds speed and scoring ability to the Tiger attack.
“She’s one of the hardest-working players out there," sophomore midfielder Abi Raymer said. "She’ll be the forward running all the way back down to our defense line to track a player. She does so much. She’s always missed (when she’s not) on the field.”
Diggs’ presence on the field alone is intimidating because of her speed and motivation to win, sophomore midfielder Kaysie Clark said.
“She brings a lot of high energy — she presses a lot,” Clark said. “She finishes well, too.”
Diggs’ first practice back focused heavily on just that: finishing. It’s something to which Missouri hasn’t been adept as of late. After tallying 14 goals in their first four games, the Tigers have scored just two in their last 181 minutes of play on a whopping 49 shots against Ohio State and Tennessee Tech.
Blitz said he isn’t concerned with the inefficiency on offense for multiple reasons. First, the struggles in both games need to be analyzed individually.
“With Tennessee Tech, they were going to try to win with a set piece,” he said. “Where Ohio State, it was a pretty evenly matched game. We were just going to put the gloves on, and whoever was going to win was going to win."
Blitz said he understands having scoring chances doesn’t always guarantee points. He likes that the attack is creating opportunities to score, even if the ball isn’t rolling their way.
“I get worried when we don’t create any chances whatsoever,” Blitz said. “We’re not going to score four on Memphis and three on Cal all the time.”
Blitz said his team has missed what Diggs brings to the lineup, even though the group of players that replaced her — sophomore midfielder Taylor Grant, freshman midfielder Reagan Russell and others — have done well, many playing out of position.
“It’ll make us better depth-wise going forward,” he said. “We’ve been thin in the past. (Now) we’ll legitimately have six real forwards.”
There's an additional advantage to having Diggs back, Blitz said.
“She’ll keep every other team more honest,” Blitz said.