COLUMBIA - A halftime change of strategy gave the MU Soccer team an offensive spark that led to a 3-0 shutout over the undefeated Vanderbilt Commodores on Friday night at Walton Stadium.
The Commodores, who entered the match with a 5-0-0, had not played a regular season match outside of Tennessee before Friday. At the outset, Vanderbilt was well prepared and managed solid defense against an MU's offense that relies on long balls played over opposing middle defenders and hard runs by Tigers strikers. offense.
After a scoreless first half, Coach Bryan Blitz changed the Tigers' their line of attack. MU captain Mo Redmond said the change was both a matter of necessity and something that Commodores may not have been well prepared to face.
"After last season, teams recognized how good we are in the air," Redmond said, "so we had to make a change. We have the skill to play on the ground, so we started playing more to the feet in the second half."
MU forward Alysha Bonnick broke the deadlock in the 58th minute to put the Tigers out front for good. Redmond did her part by lofting a free kick in the 78th into the Vanderbilt box for Meghan Pfeiffer, who notched her first goal of the season on a header to give MU a 2-0 lead.
For good measure, freshman Mallory Stipetich scored from 45 yards out in the 84th minute. The Tigers improve to 3-2-0 record, with goalie Tasha Dittamore making 7 saves to log her third shutout of the season.
The win gives MU a boost in confidence going into a home game against Butler on Sunday, when the Tigers will "Kick for Nick" in an effort to collect soccer balls for Iraqi children.
After watching a story on ESPN, Redmond went to assistant coach Molly Schneider asking if the team could support the charity "Kick for Nick."
"I have a sister in the military, so I was really touched by the story" Redmond said.
U.S. soldier Nick Madaras noticed that the children used bags of rocks and old tin cans to play soccer in the streets while serving his first tour of duty in Iraq two years ago, according to the charity's Web site kickfornick.com. So, while home on leave in July 2006, Madaras began collecting soccer balls to distribute to the kids. Two months later, the 19-year-old was killed in action by a road side bomb. His family has kept Madaras' memory alive, continuing to collect and distribute soccer balls in his name to the children in Iraq and Afgahnistan.
"It's great because fans come to see our games, and we get to help people at the same time," Michelle Collins said.
All fans who donate new or used soccer balls will receive free admission. The Tigers take on the Bulldogs at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Walton Stadium.