When the Missouri Tigers entered conference play Friday at Mississippi State, their record stood at 4-4, and the jury was out as to the kind of team they would be.
Would they be the high-scoring offensive machine of years past? Or would their forte be on defensive end, making scoring opportunities a luxury for teams playing the Tigers? The argument can go both ways.
Through their first eight games, the Tigers are averaging 2.5 goals per game and have a variety of options offensively. While senior Alyssa Diggs is the forward that most opposing coaches know as a threat, the Tigers have had goals from nine different players this season, with four of them having three or more.
Associate head coach Brian Dooley thinks the Tigers plethora of scorers will be a problem for their foes.
“If you have one player scoring all the goals, the other teams can focus on that player and shut them down,” he said, “So the fact that we have been so balanced with both our midfielders and attackers scoring goals makes it really hard to defend us.”
The case for the defense stands just as strong as the Tigers already have three shutouts on the season and have held nationally acclaimed offenses like Baylor and Portland to just two goals in their meetings. Dooley said that despite the team’s three clean slates, the defense remains far from a finished project.
“It’s a still a bit of a work in progress,” Dooley said. “When you try to press your opponents, there’s space in the back, so we’ve been working on solidifying the back line.”
Players are not really concerned about how they may be perceived offensively or defensively. Diggs said he does not look at the team from that point of view.
“When I think of our team, I don’t really think of it like that,” Diggs said. “I think that everybody on this team works hard for one another, so I think our team is based more off of work ethic.”
The team’s motto this season is “I am because we are,” which is meant for the team to be perceived as a whole and not broken up by offense or defense.
“Every year I think we have a theme that kind of relates to us as a group or us working hard for each other,” Diggs said of the motto. “The team is bigger than yourself.”
While the Tigers stand at .500 going into conference play, they have played two ranked teams on the road and have been in every game so far. Despite the letdowns on the road, the team’s attitude has remained upbeat and they believe they are on the brink of something special.
“We’re on the verge of something I think,” Diggs said. “We’ve been learning a lot from our losses, and sometimes you just get unlucky. We’re ready to explode.”