Pep talk leads to Tiger victory

Sophomore forward Alysha Bonnick rises for a header against Vanderbilt on Friday at Walton Stadium. Bonnick scored the first goal of the Tigers' 3-0 win.

There's something about a halftime speech that gets Missouri's soccer team going.    

For the fifth straight game, MU (3-2-0) failed to score in the first half. But after adjusting their game plan at halftime, the Tigers ripped off three second-half goals to beat Vanderbilt 3-0 Friday night at Walton Stadium.

In the 59th minute, junior midfielder Bree Thornton slid a ball to sophomore forward Alysha Bonnick, who turned and fired it into the upper left corner to give MU a 1-0 lead. The goal was just the type coach Bryan Blitz was looking for in the second half.

"They had two tall center-backs that we couldn't play over the top of, and they just continued to win the ball," said Blitz, whose team handed Vanderbilt its first loss of the season. "At halftime, (I said) we have to get the ball down, and we have to play to feet."

Thornton did just that, but MU's second goal came through the air. In the 79th minute, senior midfielder Mo Redmond hit a sharp corner kick that junior midfielder Meghan Pfeiffer headed squarely into the net.

Freshman defender Mallory Stipetich added a goal in the 85th minute when her blast into the box from 55 yards out fooled Vanderbilt's goalkeeper and bounced over her head and into the net.

Although MU poured on the attack after halftime, Blitz doesn't want to rely on the second half to score.

"I think coaches are always worried about everything, but certainly we have to put two full halves together if we want to reach our potential," he said.

Bonnick joined junior forwards Kristin Andrighetto and Michelle Collins on the field for the first time since MU's season opener. The big three, as Blitz calls them, combined for 37 of Missouri's 53 goals last year.

"All our forwards are dangerous and can score goals, but it was nice to see them (all on the field) for a portion of time," Blitz said.

Collins, who played 36 minutes and had one shot, missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. Blitz said she played at about 85 percent Friday.

The Tigers were fortunate the game was tied at halftime. Junior goalkeeper Tasha Dittamore made five saves in the first half, the biggest one coming in the 26th minute. Vanderbilt's Megan Forester had a clear shot at the goal, but Dittamore deflected her attempt away.

"Tasha had a fantastic game in goal,” Blitz said. “The defenders had a great game. But it's not going to be that way every single time.”

Blitz said senior defenders Kat Tarr and Janelle Cordia and junior defender Crystal Wagner have to communicate better, but they're progressing.

"They're starting to really figure each other out without even having to talk to each other," Dittamore said.

MU is also going to figure out how to score in the first half, Dittamore said.

"We're starting to score more goals as the season goes on, and we're going to find a way to finish them in the first half, too," she said. "It's just going to take some time."

The sooner the better for the Tigers because come Big 12 conference play, a halftime adjustment might be too little too late.

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