Expectations high for Mizzou soccer in 2014

Expectations high for Mizzou soccer in 2014

Kaysie clark

By Joey Gjata, 23 Sports

Monday, Sept. 29–

After an inconsistent 2013 season in which they finished 8-9-3, the Mizzou women’s soccer team looks to improve in the SEC and ultimately make a run in this year’s NCAA tournament.

The Tigers have started the first half of this season in stellar form compared to that of last year: Through 11 games, this year’s team stands at 7-2-2 with tough losses away against 20th ranked West Virginia in August and 7th ranked Florida just this past weekend. No. 30 Mizzou played well against both oppositions but fell short in the late stages.

The team’s most notable accomplishment thus far is eight match unbeaten streak that was ended on Sunday on against the Gators. This season’s group has played very well compared to last year team, who were 6-5-0 at this point and ultimately finished the year 8-9-3 (4-4-3 in conference).

Moreover, the only two notable seniors lost were Dominique Richardson and Danielle Nottingham, who combined for five of the team’s 33 goals and nine of the team’s 29 assists.

So then what has been the critical difference between the two teams if personal has remained largely unchanged? By the look of the things, the experience of the current team has led to a greater chemistry. The Tigers have already scored 20 goals on 18 assists. Last year’s offensive stars, Taylor Grant and Kaysie Clark, have continued where they left off with Grant leading the team in goals with six and Clark leading not only the team, but the SEC with nine assists.

The overall presence of Clark this season has added an extra dimension to the Tiger attack. The inventive and creative playmaker has taken up more of a facilitator role this year tallying half of the entire team’s assist totals. Her dribbling and vision have created a multitude of extra opportunities that lacked in abundance last year.

However, head coach Bryan Blitz, who picked up his monumental 200th career victory earlier this season, has emphasized the defensive prowess with which he wants this team to be acknowledged for. Led in goal by senior captain McKenzie Sauerwein, Mizzou has kept four clean sheets thus far-already matching last season’s total.

Although Sauerwein is on pace to make about a third less total of saves than last year, the team defense and the star keeper’s readiness in denying the few shots that do come her way have led to success in the back end thus far.

The leadership of central defender Candace Johnson and her defensive unit, including the likes of Jasmine Johnson and Brittany Conley, have been vital to the team’s success. The trio have shown durability in starting each of the 11 games and combining for over 3000 minutes played.

In terms of the SEC conference shape this season, Mizzou has started off 2-1-0 with victories against a struggling LSU side at home and a sensational defensive performance en route to a 1-0 against South Carolina on the road.

The Florida loss snapped the unbeaten run, but the Tigers are still in a favorable position in the SEC standings, sitting alone in 4th place on six points behind Florida, Texas A&M and Georgia. The undefeated Gators and Aggies are the projected frontrunners throughout the second half of the year, with Mizzou sitting in pole position to finish in the top three if they win out.

Looking ahead in the schedule, Mizzou plays a very important match against Georgia away on Oct. 17 that could determine the final seedings atop the conference.

Ultimately, the Tigers will envision a credible postseason tournament run. Having missed out last season and eliminated in the first round the year prior, this experienced group will look to have all the hard work pay off come November.