Underdog Missouri defeats ranked Vanderbilt, 2-1

In a tough home opening game, the Tigers upset the Commodores in a gritty contest.
Missouri's Julissa Cisneros runs down a ball during the Tigers' upset win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 3, 2020.

Missouri broke their losing streak of five consecutive SEC losses with a 2-1 upset over Vanderbilt on Saturday, the first time the Tigers have beaten a ranked opponent in five years.

Vanderbilt defeated Missouri in the last three of their regular season meetings — the scores being all within one or two goals. The Commodores were ranked No. 13 in the United Soccer Coaches Sept. 27 poll and were favorites in this game.

“You could just tell by the attitude in the week leading up that we were ready to come against Vanderbilt and get that win,” redshirt senior Cassidy Nurnberger said.

The game was full of scrappy and physical play. Missouri, however, was the stronger team with more possession and higher pressure.

“I love a physical game,” Nurnberger said. “I love that gritty, physical soccer, so I wasn’t complaining.”

In the 11th minute, freshman Jenna Bartels received a through ball that put her one-on-one with Vanderbilt goalkeeper Sophie Guilmette, who illegally tackled her outside the 18-yard box, resulting in a yellow card.

Missouri junior Julissa Cisneros was unable to convert and put the free kick just wide to the left of the goal. Cisneros looked to extend her streak to seven consecutive games with a goal.

Almost immediately after, in the 13th minute, Missouri won another free kick opportunity from the same spot. Cisneros placed a cross right to the head of redshirt senior Grace Kitts, who slotted it home to put the Tigers ahead, 1-0.

“I heard Blitz say to Julissa ‘Hit Grace back post!’, so I ran as hard as I could to the outside of the back post,” Kitts said. “It was awesome. She placed it perfectly for me to head in.”

In the 60th minute, the ball couldn’t seem to leave Vanderbilt’s 18-yard box, despite numerous chances to clear it. Missouri’s Cassidy Nurnberger was given a chance, and capitalized, unleashing a powerful shot that ricocheted off the post and into the back of the net, putting the Tigers ahead, 2-0.

“I’m not used to scoring, so that was very exciting,” Nurnberger said. “I remember in the last game against South Carolina, I had an opportunity to shoot and I passed on that.”

During practice that week, Cisneros kept reminding Nurnberger to shoot whenever she had the opportunity.

“As soon as I took that shot and it went in the back of the goal, the first person I looked to was Julissa and she said, ‘See? That’s what happens when you shoot’. It was amazing.”

Vanderbilt was quick to respond — within a minute, a free kick goal from junior Madi Allen cut Missouri’s lead in half.

Vanderbilt’s offense gained confidence, but Missouri’s defense was able to hold out, securing their first win of the season.

Vanderbilt accumulated two yellow cards while Missouri was given four, one due to head coach Bryan Blitz for arguing over a possible missed penalty call.

A big part of Missouri’s success was having a confident goalkeeper in net. In last week’s game against South Carolina, Isabella Allessio struggled in goal, so Blitz looked to his three other keepers for the next. Sophomore McKenna Sheehan made three saves, one of them requiring her to dive dangerously into a Vanderbilt forward to snatch the ball.

“She was a big piece of [the win],” Blitz said. “She plucked a lot of crosses out, and [Vanderbilt] is very dangerous with their crosses.”

This was Missouri’s Pink-Out game in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The players sported pink jerseys and the field had a pink Tiger logo in the center circle. The stadium, only allowing 20 percent capacity in the stands, felt empty as the Tigers emerged onto the field. However, the team’s support was still evident by the fans who were able to attend.

“We were excited to be back home,” said head coach Bryan Blitz. “There’s no place like home.”

In their next game, Missouri will face off against Tennessee in Knoxville on Friday, Oct. 9 at 6 p.m.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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