Missouri looking past recent struggles

Although the Tigers went on a five-game winning streak earlier this year, beating multiple ranked opponents, they’ve only won once in their last five games.
Cameron Thomas / Graphic Designer

The Missouri soccer team qualified for the NCAA Tournament on Monday. While the at-large bid signifies a good team, the Tigers haven’t played well recently.

Mizzou finished the regular season with an overall record of 11-6-3, 6-4-1 in Southeastern Conference play, beat four ranked opponents and reached the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on a bye.

After that bye, the Tigers fell to No. 11 South Carolina, eliminating the Gamecocks from the tournament early.

Missouri has only won one of the last five games played, tying another and losing three, including a 3-0 slaughter to lowly Tennessee.

Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said he doesn’t think anything of the last few games and doesn’t plan on changing anything heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Earlier this season, Missouri won five straight games and was nationally ranked.

“I don’t think (the games) have been rough,” Blitz said. “I think we’ve had some really good games, so I think we’ll prepare like we normally do. The kids are excited. You’re in the NCAA Tournament, so why would you do anything differently?”

Sophomore midfielder Melanie Donaldson said that she attributes the team’s recent decline in performance to “end of the season jitters” and getting worn down, but explained that she sees they are starting to turn it around, something that has been visible in the last few practices.

“It’s going to be a rollercoaster for every team, especially in a good conference,” she said. “That might have been our down point, but I know that now that we’re in this tournament, we’re going to hit our up point again. I think everyone’s going to have to dig deep, and it’s just going to have to come from within.”

Senior goalkeeper McKenzie Sauerwein said the team seems to have been focusing on less important things and the Tigers recently had a meeting to “discuss what Mizzou soccer is about.”

“We’re here for one reason: to play for each other,” said Sauerwein, a team captain. “(In the meeting) we talked about respect, focus and a bunch of other key points that we needed to make to bring us together to play how we did before the rough patch.”

The Tigers’ first game in the tournament is at Kansas, a rivalry match with a great deal behind it.

Sauerwein was around during their last face-off in 2011, when Mizzou made a comeback to win 3-2, and said it was exciting to be a part of it.

“It means a lot that it’s KU,” Sauerwein said. “It’s really exciting … I think it’s going to be a big game for us to play together and be there for one another, and if we do that, I know we’re going to play well.”

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