Missouri wins opener behind Cisneros’ early goal

Sophomore Julissa Cisneros was the leading goalscorer for the Tigers last season with five goals.
Sophomore midfielder Julissa Cisneros takes a corner kick during Thursday night's home opener. Cisneros scored the lone goal of the game, propelling Missouri to a win over Southern Mississippi. Andrew Moore

The season got off to a quick start for Missouri soccer.

Last year’s leading goalscorer, sophomore Julissa Cisneros, latched onto a ball chipped in behind Southern Mississippi’s defenders by senior Sarah Luebbert in the second minute to give the Tigers an early lead in their home opener. The goal came off a Southern Miss goal kick where goalkeeper junior Kendell Mindnich failed to get the ball far enough upfield, allowing Cisneros and Luebbert to take advantage of the out-of-position Southern Mississippi defenders.

“I saw her running in and the ball was bouncing,” Luebbert said. “I knew she was going to finish...with the ball bouncing and the goalie coming out, she’s really good at reading that kind of stuff.”

The goal opened the floodgates for Missouri (1-0-0, 0-0-0 SEC) with the Tigers building up a sustained level of pressure on the Golden Eagles (0-1-0, 0-0-0 C-USA) and registering four shots within the next 15 minutes of play. Southern Mississipi seemed to grow into the game later, gaining more possession and getting to 50-50 balls just a step ahead of Missouri for the rest of the first half.

“Once we scored we dropped our energy,” coach Bryan Blitz said. “[Southern Mississippi] kind of took over the game a little bit in the midfield so we were chasing the game a lot. So credit to them, but our energy dropped off.”

Missouri’s starting goalkeeper, redshirt sophomore Peyton Bauman, earned her first start and was called into action in the 29th minute when Southern Mississippi redshirt junior Alice Campos fired a close-range shot from a sharp angle, forcing Bauman to tip the ball wide of the net.

Missouri responded quickly with a chance of its own as freshman Jadyn Easley, who had just subbed in a few minutes before, let the ball come across her body and fired a right-footed shot that hit the post and went wide of the net. After that play, Missouri got back on the front foot controlling the midfield and closed out the half outshooting Southern Mississippi eight to one.

After halftime, play was much more balanced with both teams having equal amounts of possession but neither team really creating any clear-cut chances. This allowed Missouri to see out the rest of the game comfortably.

“We talk about how we need to finish out and maybe get some more [goals], but I think [Southern Miss’] goalkeeper did a good job,” Blitz said. “We’ll take it, we all have work to do, including myself, but certainly we’ll take it.”

Even though they only lost three seniors from last season, the Tigers have plenty of new faces to integrate with ten freshmen joining the team for this season. With so many young players entering the program, Blitz understands that it could be a while before Missouri can fully showcase what it is capable of.

“We suffered a little bit but that’s good for us moving forward,” Blitz said. “We’ll get better as the season goes [on] for sure.”

Cisneros echoed that back-to-work mentality, refusing to dwell too much on her goal which gave Missouri the win.

“Once it hits 12 it’s a new day and we’re just going on through the season,” Cisneros said. “This is just the beginning, so don’t be too high on a high and don’t be too low on a low.”

Missouri’s next game will be Sunday at Ohio State who recently lost to Louisville in its season opener. For Blitz, there are plenty of things for Missouri to improve on before Sunday’s match if his team is to pick up its second win.

“We need to play longer minutes,” Blitz said. “We need to be focused all the way through. I think if we have 20-minute lapses, Ohio State, especially away, could punish us so we have to clean that up.”

Edited by Wilson Moore | wmoore@themaneater.com

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