Depth carries Mizzou through troublesome weekend

Allie Hess: “Our depth has carried us through this entire season.”
Freshman Peyton Joseph, 16, keeps her eyes downfield as she dribbles the ball.

The past week for Missouri soccer could have been much more tumultuous than it was. With the absence of superior talent due to suspensions and illness, the Tigers could have easily crumpled and lost both games over the weekend.

However, the Tigers managed to go 1-1 in a weekend marked by missing players, showing an important aspect of the Missouri team: depth.

“We have a ton of great players,” junior Allie Hess said. “Our depth has carried us through this entire season, it wasn’t too big of a change for us. We have everyone who can step on the field.”

In the absence of suspended starters Sarah Luebbert, Kaitlyn Clark and Bethany Coons – all of whom are now reinstated – Hess elevated her game with two goals against Weber State. With four goals on the season, Hess is only one goal behind Luebbert, the team’s leading scorer.

With the depth that Mizzou has, losing players isn’t as devastating. The Tigers practice for a multitude of situations.

“We do, probably not enough, because you can’t prepare for everything,” coach Bryan Blitz said. “We try to prepare for everything. It didn’t show on Thursday against a good Tennessee team away. But hopefully it showed a little bit for us moving forward.”

A position where depth is playing a key role is goalie, with three goalies on the roster: junior Kristen Rivers, freshman Mercedes Sapp and sophomore starter Kelsey Dossey.

Though Dossey has started eight of the team’s nine games – she didn’t play against Tennessee due to illness – Blitz suggested there was still an ongoing competition.

“It’s still going to be a dogfight,” Blitz said. “Kristen showed well on Thursday, and I think through the whole week it will be a tough decision. Even Mercedes, it’s a three-person race for that starting spot.”

Despite being in the middle of the year and entering a crucial stretch of Southeastern Conference games, Sapp continues to make a push to start.

“We have no problem playing a freshman if they are the best one,” Blitz said. “Mercedes is probably the most athletic kid that we have, and she is very courageous. Her growth is in playing time, being more composed, with her age. She is a great communicator.”

Consistency and experience will only help Sapp moving forward. According to Blitz, she is very understanding of the situation.

“She is realistic, she knows what she needs to do,” he said. “We have those up front transparent conversations about, ‘This is where you are at this week.’ She has been really good about it, as has Kristen, as has Kelsey as well.”

This depth and competition has lead to a collective team mindset that was not wavered through the suspensions.

“We just had to tell ourself to grind through,” Hess said. “Every single person on this team has put in the effort, we trust everyone to be on the field. I think we were fine.”

On Thursday, Mizzou will be back at full strength as suspended starters will return to the pitch to face SEC foe Kentucky. Blitz said he is not worried about having to readjust to players returning to the team.

With a 6-3 record, the Tigers are entering a stretch of nine straight SEC games. Five games are at home and three are against top-20 opponents.

For the Tigers, the next few weeks are the biggest of the year, and the team’s depth could be the difference-maker.

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

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