Reagan Russell looking to break out as Alyssa Diggs returns to form

Senior striker continues to contribute for Tigers despite injuries.
Sophomore Reagan Russell leaps over the Boxer’s goalkeeper during the first half of the Missouri-Pacific game Friday, Aug. 23. The Tigers won 5-1 in the opening game of the 2013 season.

It’s no secret that senior striker Alyssa Diggs hasn’t been herself lately. The Tigers’ biggest offensive threat is recovering from hamstring injuries and is looking to return to her top form in the season’s near future.

“We’re just happy she’s healthy,” coach Bryan Blitz said after Friday’s 5-1 season-opening win against Pacific University. “Right now, I think she’s around 60 to 65 percent. We’re trying to get her to 70 percent.”

Diggs played 44 minutes in the Tigers’ overtime loss to Memphis on Sunday and was again shuttled on and off the field. Sophomore forward Reagan Russell came in for Diggs in an effort to conserve her strength.

Russell had two goals off the bench Friday.

“I’ve been telling Reagan all year this is her breakout year,” Diggs said.

Russell agreed.

“I think working well with the backline was really clicking well for us,” Russell said. “That’s why we got those (goals).

Despite Diggs’ injuries, it appears to Blitz that her role on the team will remain untouched throughout the season, regardless of how she plays.

“She’s always going to be our leader whether she scores or not,” Blitz said.

In addition to being a leader on the field, Diggs has the opportunity to play with her longtime roommate and senior forward Danielle Nottingham.

“Me and Dani have been roommates in the past, so we’ve been joking for a while about having a ‘roomie connection’ on the field” said Diggs. “It was a cool experience.”

Despite notching an assist to Nottingham while playing under full strength, Diggs was more proud of her team’s performance than of her own.

“I thought I played OK. I think my team played really well, especially the way we finished out the game,” Diggs said of her Friday performance. “I’m still trying to get my confidence up, and there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement and things I can do better.”

Diggs was impressed with the way the offense handled itself.

“I think they did awesome,” she said. “They didn’t stop, and we really finished out the game strong.”

Diggs and the Tigers return home Friday to play Southeastern Missouri University in what will be one of two of the Tigers only home games for most of September. The Tigers host Georgia in their first home-conference game Sept. 27.

With a healthy Diggs, the Tigers assemble an offense capable of some intense firepower. After stacking five goals on Memphis to open the 2012 season, Missouri put the same amount on Pacific in 2013. If Diggs can return to full health in the next few weeks before SEC play begins, the Tigers could end their star’s career on a high-note somewhere in the postseason.

“I think I’m getting up there now. It’s getting closer,” Diggs said. “I’m looking to get that fifth gear back soon.”

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