Goals against Gonzaga “the beginning” for Missouri team in search of reset button

Madison Lewis provided the relief of a bygone streak Sunday, then Bethany Coons provided the exclamation point with an electric strike.
Attacking midfielder Bethany Coons dribbles during Missouri's 2-0 win over Gonzaga on Sept. 9, 2018. Coons scored her second career goal in the 83rd minute of the match on a shot from outside the box. She missed 2017 with a hip injury.

The rain has finally come for the Missouri soccer team.

After a Gonzaga (3-2-1) handball in the penalty box during the 65th minute of Sunday’s game at Walton Stadium, redshirt junior Madison Lewis drilled a shot into the lower right corner of the goal.

Yes, a Missouri goal. Its first in 434 minutes of play.

“It was a pretty good feeling,” Lewis said. “I knew had to go up there and stay calm, collected and finish it like I always do.”

This goal was the eighth of her career and first since last season against Florida.

But a penalty kick might’ve been too fitting a manner for this team to end the drought. The hand ball in the box quite literally handed the Tigers their free shot. If that was a moment of relief just to reset 484 to zero, 17 minutes later came a moment to represent a true breakthrough.

In the 83rd minute, redshirt junior Bethany Coons evaded the multiple defenders before sending one to the upper 90s from outside the box. Before the penalty kick, Missouri’s most recent tally had been an own goal. This one, suddenly the Tigers’ second goal of the game, felt real. It was especially unlikely coming from Coons, who missed the entire 2017 season with a hip injury.

This was her own second career goal.

The Tigers registered a season high 20 shots against Gonzaga, with 12 players getting shots off. Lewis and freshman Blythe Beldner led the way with three a piece.

Missouri (2-4-1) was on a four game losing streak when it returned to Audrey J. Walton Stadium Sunday afternoon to face a strong Gonzaga team for the two programs’ first ever meeting.

Its last win had come in second overtime during the 103rd minute against Iowa State on Aug. 19. Freshman Skye Kingsley had netted one early in the second half for the Tigers, but ultimately the game-winner had come from that Iowa State gaffe.

After that contest, the Tigers struggled to find the net to accompany their defensive stamina, losing consecutive games against Colorado, Northwestern, Texas Christian University and University of Southern California.

“It’s been a long couple games, but we stuck through it and trusted the process,” Coons admitted. “We knew we were gonna find our way back so we stayed patient.”

Missouri’s nonconference schedule has arguably been one of the toughest in the country, but the team was repeatedly at a loss for finishing in the final third of the field in numerous close games.

But as the Tigers prepare to head into conference play this Thursday evening against Kentucky, coach Bryan Blitz believes the tough competition they’ve faced so far this season has prepared them well.

“We had some hard lessons that we were put through for a reason,” Blitz commented. “We have to show that those lessons paid off for us, and I think we did today against a good Gonzaga team.”

The players are intent on moving forward following a start that has them currently tied for last in the SEC with Florida. Scoring to end the drought was the first page to turn.

“This is kind of the beginning for us,” Coons said. “These last couple games don’t mean anything to us anymore. We’re ready for the SEC to get started.”

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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