Northern Iowa at Missouri
WHEN: 5 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
COLUMBIA — During the past two years, Missouri athletic programs have been winning in ways that were previously unheard of in Columbia.
In 2007, the baseball team won 42 games, won a school record 19 games in Big 12 Conference play and hosted an NCAA Regional. Then, there was the football teams’ 12-win season in 2007, a season in which the Tigers climbed to No. 1 in the rankings and was one win away from playing in the national championship.
In the fall of 2008, the women’s soccer team won its first Big 12 tournament title and followed up with the Big 12 regular season title this year. This past winter, the men’s basketball team enjoyed one of its finest seasons, winning a school-record 31 games and finishing a victory away from the Final Four. Also, the wrestling team set a school-record with five All-Americans, including a national champion in Mark Ellis. Finally, the softball team won a school record 50 games last season and made it to the NCAA College World Series.
While these programs have flourished, the Missouri women’s basketball team has struggled, finishing with a losing record in each of the past two seasons. Undoubtedly, the team would like to feed of the success of the other programs.
With the women’s basketball team playing its first regular season game at 5 p.m. Sunday at Mizzou Arena against Northern Iowa, a new season means a fresh start. It also means another chance to try and have a record-setting year themselves. To them, the past is exactly what it is—the past.
“Even though we’ve had two rough seasons … We don’t want to think about that, we’re all about this change thing we have going on,” junior Shakara Jones said. “If we stay on that path, we should get to where we want to go.”
Missouri coach Cindy Stein said the success of other teams has a positive effect on her team, especially for things such as recruiting.
“Anytime we can get Missouri’s name out there in a positive way is always beneficial,” Stein said.
A closer look at the Tigers past two seasons may help explain some of the struggles they have had. In 2007-08, Stein’s team was the eighth youngest in the nation. Stein said the Tigers had lots of freshmen and not many junior college transfers.
“Everybody goes through cycles and we went through a cycle where we were really young,” Stein said.
Last season, the Tigers lost 11 games by 10 points or less, but with four seniors this season, the Tigers hope losing tight games will not be a reoccurring theme.
“We have to come prepared to finish,” senior Jessra Johnson said.
Stein said the leadership this year should help fix some of the problems late in games.
“Our experience is critical. I think as much as these last two years were a struggle, I think it’s made us stronger in so many ways,” Stein said. “Maybe we had to go through those struggles to achieve what we’re going to this year.”
As a team, according to Stein, the goals are the same this year as they are every year. Winning all of their games at Mizzou Arena and finishing in the top four in the Big 12 are goals the team always has.
But ultimately, the Tigers would like to be in the conversation when people bring up record-setting programs at Missouri. They want to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Before the Tigers start looking that far down the road, they would like to start the 2009-10 season off Sunday in a positive way.
“Getting a couple wins under your hat right away I think helps your kids gain that confidence,” Stein said. “Teaching them to win is a big part of this season.”