The Missouri soccer team has a long trip ahead of them.
The Tigers (3-1) head 762 miles south on Thursday to College Station for their biggest test of the season thus far. Missouri will be competing in a tournament hosted by Texas A&M. The Tigers have two set games in the tournament, playing Baylor on Friday and San Diego on Sunday.
After a 3-0 win over UMKC on Sunday, Missouri’s second consecutive shutout, coach Bryan Blitz ran his players through one more early morning practice on Wednesday before heading out.
A fresh layer of frost adorned the ground on a cool September morning as the sun crept over the horizon. Blitz, clipboard in hand and whistle hanging around his neck, barked criticism and encouragement as his team ran through game situations in a scrimmage.
“We’re just trying to prepare for the weekend. We’re trying to get everybody’s mind right,” Blitz said.
Missouri will be facing their toughest test of the season Friday night against Baylor. The Bears are undefeated and have not allowed a goal to be scored against them yet in the season. Missouri, known for its attacking style of play, might tarnish that spotless record.
“I think our kids are excited about the opportunity to accomplish that. Playing a team like Baylor, we want the win,” Blitz said.
Baylor will be the first team from a major conference the Tigers face in the 2013 season. The challenge is a welcome and timely one for Blitz.
“We certainly want to expose ourselves to every weakness that we might have so we can fix that so it’s not too late once we get into conference and NCAA tournament time,” Blitz said.
One aspect of Baylor’s game that Missouri took into consideration during practice was its ravenous crowd. Baylor is known for its dedicated fan base, and Waco to College Station isn’t that far of a drive.
The players had a little fun preparing for the crowd noise. While practicing penalty kicks, some would scream, squeal, jump around and shout ridiculous things at each other in an attempt to mimic the Bears’ crowd.
“We do what we do well. But certainly we talk about some of the things they might do, that we might see so we aren’t caught off guard,” Blitz said.
In the end, Blitz understands that the ultimate preparation comes with what his team does, not the variables that are out of Missouri’s control.
“It’s really about making sure that Missouri doesn’t beat Missouri. We need to be mentally focused,” Blitz said.