Soccer holds high aspirations for postseason play

Kaysie clark

By Joey Gjata, 23 Sports

Monday, Nov. 3-

With another soccer season winding down, the Missouri women’s soccer team looks poised to fight for a first SEC championship in school history, as well as a hopeful run in this year’s NCAA tournament.

The Tigers performed much better this year than last as the experience and maturation process of the team’s chemistry played an integral role in qualifying for the SEC tournament.

Mizzou started the season off in fine form going 9-2-2 in its first 13 games (including a 4-1-0 start in SEC play). The backbone of this team has been an energetic midfield with a sturdy defense and a superb goalkeeper behind it. In each of the nine wins, only once did the Tigers allow more than one goal, including five clean sheets for senior keeper McKenzie Sauerwein.

On the flip side, the team genuinely focused on a pass first offensive system- 28 of 33 goals this season came off of an assist. Despite not having a prolific scorer like that of Florida’s Savannah Jordan, who scored an SEC best 15 goals, Mizzou shared the goals through the likes of Taylor Grant and All-SEC second team member Russell Reagan, who combined for 13 goals on the season.

Overall, this style of play has lead Mizzou to hold a greater amount of possession and allow All-SEC first team senior Kaysie Clark to dribble at defenses and pinpoint a number of deadly through balls. The creative playmaker finished second in the SEC in assists with 10 and will be an intergral part in the Tiger’s postseason run.

As well as the team played on the season, Mizzou ended the year poor, finishing 2-3-1 (all in conference play) and dropping points to lower quality teams in Ole Miss, Tennessee and Alabama at home.

The team will first face off against South Carolina this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Orange Beach, Ala. in the quarterfinal matchup in the SEC tournament. The last meeting between the two sides came in Columbia, SC where Mizzou displayed a defensive masterclass and defeated the Gamecocks 1-0 on the road. Sophomore Lauren Selaiden who slotted home the winner off of a Kaysie Clark assist. Sauerwein added a three saves in the shutout.

The Tigers did not play their best in that contest, but were able to grind out a tough win against the best defense in the SEC at that time. This time around, the team in black and gold will need the likes of Grant and Kaysie Clark to step up and create the chances against a defensive minded Gamecock side. The play of All-SEC freshman team member Kaitlyn Clark on the wing could also be a pivotal matchup to unlock the opposition’s defense.

Another aspect of Mizzou’s game plan that will be addressed this Wednesday will be set pieces. The Tigers led the SEC with 120 corner kicks and with the size of All-SEC second team defender Candace Johnson, Selaiden and Reagan, set plays could very well be the decider in tightly projected match.

The favorites in the SEC–Texas A&M, Florida and Kentucky–all pose similar problems. Unlike the Gamecocks, who set up as a compact defensive unit that seeks to counter attack, the aforementioned trio all look to hold possession and create constant waves of attack.

Despite the firepower that faces them, the Tigers do have the parts and pieces to make an impression on the rest of the SEC and possibly on the NCAA as well.

Missouri will seek to advance further in the SEC tourney, as they are still very much in the mix to make the NCAA tournament this year around. Should Mizzou defeat South Carolina this week they will play on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in the semifinal game, with the final scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m.