SEC Soccer Tournament preview: Fifth-seeded Missouri looks to make run at title

The Tigers surpassed expectations this season, but they face a tough test against strong SEC teams.

It wasn’t a perfect regular season, but the Southeastern Conference did it — it finished a season in the midst of a pandemic.

Sure, it could have gone more smoothly. Sure, it was a shortened season. But to have one at all is an accomplishment that deserves recognition.

Missouri wrapped up its schedule last Sunday with a 5-2 win over Florida. The Tigers solidified themselves as the fifth seed in the SEC tournament with help from Texas A&M, who beat Auburn 2-0 on Monday.

The tournament kicks off on Friday in Orange Beach, Ala., but Missouri won’t play until Sunday. They will take on the winner of Kentucky and Florida, coincidentally the two teams the Tigers most recently played, and defeated, in convincing fashion. Kickoff is currently scheduled for 8:30 p.m EST.

Arkansas took the number one seed as it lost just one game all season and finished on a three-game winning streak.

Tennessee, Texas A&M and South Carolina round out the top four and will receive a bye to the quarterfinals. South Carolina will look to defend its SEC tournament title.

Should Missouri beat Kentucky or Florida on Sunday, it would take on South Carolina in the quarterfinals next Tuesday. If the Tigers win that game, they would secure a spot in the semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 19, with the chance to play for the title on Sunday, Nov. 22.

“Whoever we play, we’ll be ready,” Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said after the win against Florida.

Missouri senior midfielder Bella Alessi echoed Blitz’s sentiment.

“We’re on a little bit of a high here,” Alessi said. “We’ve got to focus more and take that energy into next week.”

Missouri exceeded expectations this season. Ranked number 12 out of 14 teams in the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Tigers ended the season with at least a point in each of their final four games to finish in third in the SEC East.

Divisional points determined the standings in the COVID-19-shortened season. Tennessee benefited the most, as they went 4-1-1 in the division but 4-3-1 overall. That was enough to finish first in the East and secure the second seed.

Arkansas and Texas A&M — who both finished 7-1 — stand out as clear favorites to win it all and will only have to win two games to appear in the final.

The tournament will be aired on SEC Network.

Edited by Kyle Pinnell | kpinnell@themaneater.com

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