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Friday, August 1, 2014

Missouri soccer fighting for postseason

Missouri needs to finish 10th or better in conference play in order to make it to the SEC tournament.

Oct. 24, 2013

The Missouri soccer team has three games left in the 2013 season, and it needs to win them all.

After winning and drawing over the weekend, Missouri sits at 7-7-2, which puts it at eighth place in the Southeastern Conference.

Only the top 10 teams make the conference tournament, and, for Missouri, a conference tournament championship is its best hope for an NCAA tournament bid. Every game the Tigers play from here on out will be a dogfight to keep their postseason hopes alive.

After going to Lexington, Ky. to take on the Kentucky Wildcats on Friday, Missouri has Tennessee on Arkansas left to finish out the year. Both the Volunteers and Razorbacks are vying for a spot in the SEC tournament, and both will need a win against Missouri to do it.

The Tigers are coming off their best weekend of conference play so far, knocking off No. 11 South Carolina and drawing in a hard-fought, physical match against Auburn. The weekend brought Missouri out of a downward slide the team had been stuck on.

“Since probably after the Florida game, we skidded a little bit,” coach Bryan Blitz said. “Every game, for the seniors especially, there has to be a sense of urgency. And we have that.”

After taking down No. 7 Florida in Missouri’s biggest upset of the year, the Tigers drew at Vanderbilt and lost to Texas A&M and Louisiana State. Blitz is leaning on his team is moving forward, and he hopes to see that continue in the final three games.

Blitz stressed efficient play as a vital piece to the Tigers’ success. Missouri has had no problem getting shots off, but Blitz said he was not satisfied with the shot-to-goal ratio.

“Our focus right now is on finishing. With our attackers, we have to be a lot more efficient with our finishing,” Blitz said. “We all have to continue to be focused, stay on task, and continue to each of us get better. As a group, we have to continue to collectively get better.”

The five Missouri seniors are staring the end straight in the face and refusing to think negatively about it. After drawing against Auburn, the seniors stayed back in a huddle with Blitz to talk about staying positive and moving forward.

“Our coach is pushing us and the seniors are pushing to have a very positive mindset right now,” fifth-year senior Sarah Thune said. “We can’t even think about losing. Our goals are still in tact. We’re in a good position right now.”

Senior striker Alyssa Diggs said the team is still playing well, and she thinks everyone’s spirits are still high.

The duo insisted that this team’s experience and depth will pull through the rest of the season on the right side of games.

“There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to win the games moving forward,” Thune said. “We’ve got a lot of players in a lot of positions that have stepped up to the plate and competed in stand out games. Our depth is huge.”

Despite the cheery vibe of their message, the two were serious, on a mission to keep this team going.

“At this point, you can’t think about what could go wrong. You have to focus on what’s going to go right,” Diggs said.

For this feisty squad, everything has to go right. Game by game, minute by minute, they have to fight like there’s no tomorrow. Because, for this team, if they lose, there may not be.

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