Season Preview: Mizzou soccer looking for redemption after disappointing 2015 end

Despite returning eight starters, the Tigers still have questions to answer heading into 2016.
Mizzou junior Jessica Johnson reaches to stop and change the direction of the ball during the second half of the tigers home game facing the Central Arkansas Bears on August 19.

It would be an understatement to call the end of the Missouri soccer team’s 2015 season a disappointment.

They battled back from a sluggish start to finish second in the Southeastern Conference behind Florida. However, their hopes of making the NCAA tournament vanished after falling to seventh-seeded Louisiana State in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament.

This season, Missouri’s eight returning starters will be looking for redemption when they take the field against Central Arkansas on Aug. 19. Still, despite their experience, the Tigers will still have questions to answer before and throughout their 2016 campaign.

Battle of the keepers

Missouri’s defense reigned supreme in 2015, allowing an SEC-low 17 goals in 19 games. The Tigers did this all while facing an identity crisis at the goalkeeper position.

Then-freshman Kelsey Dossey started the first eight games of the season, snatching three shutouts while she was at it. Then, she suffered a quadriceps injury during practice before Missouri’s match against South Carolina, effectively sidelining her for the rest of her freshman season.

In her place stepped redshirt junior Kristen Rivers. Rivers notched two shutouts in Missouri’s final 11 games.

While Dossey allowed fewer goals than Rivers, the Tigers struggled to win while Dossey was on the field, handing her a record of 2–3–3 while she was on the pitch.

Meanwhile, Rivers was a part of Missouri’s late season push, helping the Tigers to a record of 6–3–2 in her 11 starts.

The Tigers will have a solid keeper, whether it be Dossey or Rivers who appears in goal. However, it is not immediately clear which one coach Bryan Blitz will go with at the start of the season.

Replacing the mainstay

Perhaps the biggest question for this Missouri team is how they will reload on defense.

Both Candace Johnson and Lauren Flynn graduated following the 2015 season, leaving the Tigers with two holes to fill on their back line. While senior Erin Webb will presumably fill in for Flynn, what Missouri will do to replace Johnson remains a mystery.

Filling Johnson’s shoes will not be easy for whomever is assigned the task. Johnson started all but one of the games she appeared in throughout her career and played every minute of the 2015 season.

The Tigers have six defenders with a combined 46 minutes of game action vying for Johnson’s spot. All 46 minutes come from redshirt sophomore Lauren Gaston.

Will the offense improve?

While Missouri’s defense was outstanding in 2015, the Tiger attack was without teeth for most of the season.

Missouri finished ninth in the SEC in terms of goals scored with only 25 in 19 games. Missouri’s top scorers, Reagan Russell and junior Savannah Trujillo, netted only four goals each.

Missouri’s scoring woes should be fixed this season. With the Tigers returning five of their six midfielders and forwards, the chemistry in attack should be almost flawless. Junior Jessica Johnson will look to improve upon her strong finish in her sophomore season, where she tallied three goals and four assists in her 17 appearances.

Meanwhile, junior Kaitlyn Clark and senior Lauren Selaiden will look to start the attack with the midfield, with Clark flying down the wings and Selaiden threading passes into good positions. Senior Melanie Donaldson will provide leadership and a solid cushion for the defensive line as the team’s holding midfielder.

Edited by Peter Baugh |

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