Missouri soccer claims Big 12 conference title

Sunday, October 25, 2009 | 7:06 p.m. CDT; updated 10:52 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Missouri women's soccer team hoists the Big 12 championship trophy Sunday.

COLUMBIA — The Missouri women’s soccer team made winning the Big 12 Conference regular season title look easy.

The Tigers beat Nebraska 5-0 on Sunday, to win their first regular season conference championship and only the first Big 12 regular season conference title for any Missouri team since women’s softball in 1997.

Although Missouri (12-4-3) dominated most of the game, it needed a little help from Nebraska to get the scoring started. The first goal came in the 20th minute when senior Michelle Collins, in an attempt to set up junior Alysha Bonnick, tapped the ball into the center of the goal box and a Nebraska defender deflected the ball into Nebraska's goal. Sophomore Candace Ruff scored the second goal in the 40th minute off of an assist from junior Kari Adam.

Despite leading 2-0 at halftime, the Tigers never stopped pressuring the Cornhuskers. Bonnick scored for Missouri in the 50th and 59th minutes and senior Kristin Andrighetto capped off the win with a goal in the 73rd minute.

Coach Bryan Blitz was pleased with the team’s overall performance.

“We certainly were efficient in our scoring, and that was close to our first complete game from the first minute to the last minute,” Blitz said.

Missouri’s defense also had a big hand in today’s win. The defensive line, led by senior Crystal Wagner, effectively shut down Nebraska’s main threat, Morgan Marlborough, who managed five shots, two of which were on goal. Marlborough, a freshman, currently leads the NCAA with 21 goals.

“She’s been on a roll, she’s leading the nation in goals and we knew that,” Wagner said. “We talked about it before the game, just staying tight on her, not letting her turn, not letting her get any shots off, and we did that extremely effectively today, and it paid off.”

Wagner is one of the seven seniors who have made a mark on this year’s banner season and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week last week. In the past, Blitz has labeled the current senior class as one of the most successful in the program’s tenure.

“(These seniors) have a little more experience than some of the other senior classes with playing and consistently winning, but due to all my former classes, we’re here,” he said. “I think that’s what sets us apart, that they were so persistent and they never give up. They’re very businesslike and they’re very mature and you can say, 'Hey, here’s what’s on the line' and they don’t really shake from pressure.”

This weekend marked the last regular season home games for the senior class. The team celebrated senior night with a 3-1 win over Iowa State on Friday.

“It’s definitely bittersweet, but if I’m going to have to go out, this is the way to do it, and I’m just so overwhelmed, so happy and so proud of everyone on the team,” Wagner said.

In its path to winning the Big 12, the team went undefeated in conference play at 7-0-2 after a somewhat rocky nonconference start.

Although Blitz said he was happy with his team’s accomplishment, he set a time the team had to stop celebrating and start getting ready for its last conference match-up next week against Kansas.

“Certainly to win the Big 12 Conference with a week left, we’re proud of our kids,” he said. “But again, as we chatted, we want to go and win at KU, it’s very important for us to do that. So we told them to enjoy it tonight until 12, after that it’s over with and we have plenty of time hopefully somewhere down the road when our journey’s done to celebrate.”


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