It took just two games back into the starting lineup for senior Danielle Nottingham to pick up where she left off.
After missing the last seven games with a knee injury, Nottingham returned to the Missouri women’s soccer lineup Friday night and logged 59 minutes in the Tigers’ loss to Georgia. On Sunday, she assisted on junior Kaysie Clark’s goal that ended up being the gamewinner in the Tigers’ 1-0 upset of No. 7 Florida.
“I think it’s great that she’s back,” Clark said of Nottingham’s return. “She’s a really hard worker, and I think just having her out there changes our game a lot.”
At the start of the season, Nottingham looked like she was going to be the leader of a deep Tigers’ offense. In her first two games, she was leading the team with one goal and three assists before a knee injury sidelined her until last week.
While the Tigers went 4-3 with Nottingham out of the lineup, a single goal separated all three losses. Nottingham believes the team did fine without her and that the team’s depth makes it easier to fill in when injuries happen.
“I don’t know, I mean, you always want to hope that if you go in you could make a difference, you could make play, but our team is solid,” Nottingham said. “We had people that stepped up when I was gone; we have people who step up everyday.”
Coach Bryan Blitz already has seen the benefits of having Nottingham back in the lineup, he said.
“It makes a giant difference because she’s such a blue collar, dirty work kid,” he said. “I think we missed that part of her in those seven games that she was gone.”
Despite missing so much time on the field this season, Nottingham’s assist Sunday was her team-leading fourth of the season. After spending her first two seasons as a forward, Blitz moved Nottingham to left back, where she helped anchor a strong Tigers’ defense, last season. Blitz decided to move Nottingham back to the top of the pitch for her final season, a transition Nottingham found smooth.
“I think over summer there was definitely some time where I was knocking a bit of the rust off,” Nottingham said. “I had to get back on my runs, my touches and shots. I think it’s come back, and it’s worked out well.”
Aside from her play on the field, Nottingham has made it a priority at practices to push the team to its limits and take on more of a leadership role. Nottingham said she believes that her relationship with senior Alyssa Diggs could help the entire team instead of just the two of them.
“Diggs and I go way back since our freshman year of always being aggressive,” Nottingham said. “We just go the hardest on each other in practice, and I think if the younger players see us beating up on each other it just helps raise our game as a team even more.”
The Tigers travel to Vanderbilt on Friday followed by a Sunday matinee with Texas A&M, another one of the conference’s premier teams.
“We have a motto that the most important game is the next game, so this week at practice we’ll look at Vanderbilt and worry about them,” Nottingham said. “And we’ll worry about A&M when Vanderbilt’s over.”