Missouri soccer finishes third in conference

Freshman forward Kendra Collins battles with Kansas junior defender Estelle Johnson during the Tigers' 6-0 win over the Jayhawks on Friday at Walton Stadium. The flurry of goals marked the largest margin of victory for the Tigers this season in Big 12 play.

Heading into its regular season finale against rival Kansas, Missouri's soccer team had lost six straight games against the Jayhawks.

The Tigers got revenge for each one of those losses, trouncing Kansas 6-0 Friday night at Walton Stadium. With the win, No. 20 MU secured a third-place finish in the Big 12.

The Jayhawks' bench was standing and screaming during the game's opening minutes, drowning out any other noise in the stadium. But KU's sideline started to quiet after junior forward Alysha Bonnick started MU's scoring onslaught in the ninth minute.

After the ball had been cleared away from the goal, senior midfielder Mo Redmond headed it back into the box, where Bonnick struck a header into the right side of the net.

"If anything (Kansas' screaming) would've pumped us up, to shut them up," Bonnick said. "Once we started scoring, not a peep out of them."

Redmond, one of six seniors being honored, wasn't surprised by the Jayhawks' tactics.

"It's always expected because it's KU and they want to get in your head. They want to rile you up," Redmond said. "It definitely gets you pumped up."

Junior forward Michelle Collins and freshman defender Mallory Stipetich each scored to give Missouri (13-5, 7-3 Big 12) a 3-0 halftime lead. Redmond scored twice within the first three minutes of the second half, making it 5-0.

Bonnick's second goal seven minutes later triggered a change in personnel on both sides. In the 54th minute, Kansas (11-7-1, 4-5-1) made ten substitutions, including at goalkeeper. Five minutes later, Missouri followed with its own stream of substitutions. The blowout allowed coach Bryan Blitz to play his entire team, and twenty Tigers played at least 31 minutes.

MU's first win against KU since 2002 helped set a handful of records. The 6-0 score was the Tigers' largest margin of victory in a conference game. The win also helped MU set records for regular season wins (13), conference wins (7) and conference points (21).

"We've been able to be consistent," Blitz said. "I think that's the most important thing that is a difference from last year to this year."

Blitz said this year's squad is more resilient than past teams, as the Tigers did not lose back-to-back games all season. While MU recognized its seniors Friday night, contributions from six freshmen also helped the Tigers to their best regular season in program history.

"We had a great group of freshmen give us a whole new level of depth," junior defender Crystal Wagner said.

It looks like Missouri will have all that depth next Wednesday when it begins the Big 12 Championship in San Antonio. The Tigers are virtually injury-free after Collins returned from a hip injury that sidelined her the last three games.

Missouri needed No. 9 Oklahoma State to lose or tie for the Tigers to finish in second place. But Oklahoma State beat rival Oklahoma 4-2 to claim the Big 12 regular season title and deny the Sooners a berth in the Big 12 Championship.

Though MU finished third in the conference, it will face a team ranked higher nationally in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. The Tigers get No. 12 Texas, which finished sixth in the conference. The Longhorns beat Missouri 2-1 last Sunday in Columbia.

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