The No. 18 Missouri women’s soccer team shined despite Sunday’s low, gray sky left in Isaac’s wake, dominating both ends of the field en route to a 2-0 victory over Tennessee Tech at Walton Stadium.
Senior forward Taiwo Adeshigbin and senior midfielder Jessica Greer tallied goals for the Tigers, who saw just two of an astounding 34 shots reach the back of the net.
“That’s got to be close to the record,” Greer said.
Different explanations were given for the lopsided ratio, including the packed-in style defense Tennessee Tech played, the still-wet playing surface and plain luck. The Golden Eagles took a containment strategy against Missouri, sitting back with numbers and reacting, waiting for the Tigers to make a mistake.
Coach Brian Blitz compared the defensive tactic to one often used by the Syracuse basketball team.
“Just sit inside the three-point line and get beat by three-point shots,” he said. “You’ll see that against a team that’s very athletic or has a lot of speed, such as us. If you can’t match that person for person, you kind of just choke the space, as opposed to opening it up.”
The strategy is used in an attempt to level the playing field for an overmatched opponent. Putting everyone on defense makes scoring a goal like pulling off a Hail Mary against a Cover 4.
“It’s a lot harder when the defense is packed in the back because you’re not just trying to take one player on,” said sophomore forward Taylor Grant, who tried eight shots. “You’re usually taking two girls on, and then a third one will step up. It’s trying to get that shot off in that little time.”
It could have been the need to rush their shots that contributed to the Tigers' many near-misses. Three times, including on a header by freshman defender Candance Johnson off a corner in the 58th minute, Tiger shots struck the post, and once the crossbar.
“We were just unlucky,” said Greer.
Tennessee Tech’s crowded, compact game plan also resulted in a noticeable amount of contact on the field. Blitz and his players said they were expecting it.
“Their coach is an ex-Navy Seal,” Blitz said.
Greer said the team likes contact on the field.
“That shows respect for us — they’re going to play hard against us," Greer said. "We’ll take a hit here and there because we’re probably going to give a hit here and there.”
In the 67th minute, Golden Eagles senior defender Leigh Heffner went up for a corner and collided with Tiger goalkeeper McKenzie Sauerwein, who was so shaken she was taken off the field. Fourteen minutes later, Sauerwein found herself in the middle of the action again, this time getting leveled while leaping to contest a corner.
Unlike Heffner, she was able to laugh it off.
“A girl came in and clocked my neck, and I flipped back,” she said. “It wasn’t that bad. The girls wanted me to stay down and give them a little break.”
The victory improved Missouri to 5-0 this season. The Tigers have opened the season with five straight wins for the first time since 2006. Blitz said the success was due to to his returning players, in whom he said he sees vast improvement this year.
“Eleven of our 22 kids were first-year players last year,” he said. “We would see 20 minutes of something like this, but we would not see 90 minutes of it.”
But that doesn’t mean Blitz expected such a hot start.
“Did I think we’d be 5-0?” he said, grinning through a long pause. “Maybe yes, maybe no.”