Missouri bounced back from a home loss on Friday night to upset reigning Southeastern Conference champs No. 7 Florida, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon at Walton Stadium.
Missouri moved to 6-5 on the year and 2-1 in the SEC with the victory, which came in one of the Tigers two nationally televised games this season.
Missouri reclaimed their aggressive style of play after a mundane performance against Georgia. Missouri Coach Bryan Blitz was happy with how his team responded after the timid showing against Georgia on Friday night.
“We lost our identity a little bit,” Blitz said. “And I think the Georgia game shook us to where we need to get back to that, and I think we did.”
A telling statistic that speaks to MU’s attacking mindset was their 10 offside calls. Yes, offside calls are a turnover and stop the flow of play. But to Blitz, the calls were a sign that his team was pushing forward like he wants them to.
“I love it. I’d take that any day of the week,” Blitz said. “We made aggressive mistakes as opposed to scared mistakes.”
Mizzou took an early lead less than 10 minutes into the game. Senior Danielle Nottingham, in her second game back from injury, took a ball running up the right flank. Nottingham sent the ball into the box to junior Kaysie Clark, who rolled the ball into the left side of the net after beating her defender with a few nifty touches.
“(Nottingham) is a great worker and she works very hard,” Clark said. “She helps everyone else around her work hard as well.”
The goal gave the underdog Tigers a much needed confidence boost. Mizzou controlled the game well, playing some of the best possession ball they have thus far in the 2013 season.
The Tigers put more shots on goal and out-possessed the Gators through the half and maintained the lead with the help of some phenomenal goalkeeping by junior McKenzie Sauerwein. Sauerwein fended off a ferocious flurry of Florida attackers desperate to get an equalizer before the half.
“She was fantastic,” Blitz said. “That was one of the best games I’ve seen her play since she’s been here. She’s really come on the last three of four games.”
The Tigers fell back into a more defense oriented game in the second half to preserve the lead. Mizzou's young defensive back four responded well to the Gator’s pressure with Sauerwein’s steady hands protecting the net behind them.
“I think what has happened to us in the past. … I think we broke. And here we just bent. I think there was resiliency that took place,” Blitz said.
The Gators came within inches of pulling even in the 72nd minute when a header popped off the top of the crossbar off a well-placed corner kick. Florida pounded shots on the Mizzou goal to no avail in the closing minute of the game.
Mizzou held firm under the pressure and closed out a strong performance, capping an impressive upset and the Tigers’ most important victory of the season in front of their largest crowd of the year.
“ If it can make it more consistent, then I that’s what it’s going to do for us,” Blitz said about the victory. “I think we needed that type of performance, that grittiness that we’ve been missing.”