COLUMBIA — This weekend, the Missouri women’s soccer team got a long-awaited chance to play another team, or as Tigers coach Bryan Blitz put it, “kick somebody else” instead of themselves.
The Tigers began their non-competitive spring season with a 3-1 loss to Illinois on Saturday and a 3-0 victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sunday.
“We’ve been waiting to play since January,” said junior Janelle Cordia after Sunday’s win against Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “Everyone came back from spring break really excited and it definitely came out today.”
Against Illinois, Missouri scored first early in the game but was held scoreless from there. The game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee was scoreless until the second half when Missouri went on a streak of three consecutive goals, one coming from its newest transfer, Taylor Hay, formerly of Missouri Baptist. All three goals were scored with less than 10 minutes to play.
But spring is an exhibition season, which for the Tigers means it’s not about the outcome, but about providing a game situation to measure the team’s individual and collective development as well as test the changes implemented over the winter.
“We really get a chance to develop our younger players and really be specific with the older players that we’ve worked with,” Blitz said.
Normally in the spring, the team would have to learn to work without last year’s seniors, but this year’s team did not lose any graduates. Hay was added to the roster and six freshmen will join in the fall, giving the Tigers even more time to develop as a unit.
“It’s a great advantage for us to be able to play together all this time and get to know each other more,” junior Mo Redmond said.
Blitz said he has begun to see some of that development. The Tigers of last fall would likely have gotten frustrated by a game that was scoreless going into final 10 minutes of the second half instead of plodding through and scoring three goals.
“What I really like is that the mental growth is there,” Blitz said.
Spring is also a time for experimentation, and many players played out of position this weekend. The reasoning is not only to discover the best position for each player and her strengths, but to provide a different perspective on the field to understand the game better.
“You get to see the field a different way, and it can only help you build the relationship with that player because you can see what they see and you realize what they’re talking about,” Redmond said.
The Tigers have two more games this spring. They play next Saturday in Kansas City against Minnesota and play April 19 at home against Loyola (Chicago).