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Columbia Missourian

MU soccer beats Arkansas for first win

By Sean Leahy
September 10, 2010 | 10:08 p.m. CDT
MU freshman Danielle Nottingham, right, attempts to steal the ball from Arkansas's Jesse Givens during Friday's game at Walton Field.

COLUMBIA — A light drizzle fell upon Walton Stadium in the aftermath of Missouri's game against Arkansas Friday night, but the Tigers' mood was anything but dampened.

Gone was a five-game winless streak to start the season as Missouri (1-3-2) swept it away with a 4-0 victory over the Razorbacks (2-3-0) in its home opener.

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Coming home after a five-game road trip, the stress was off the Missouri players.

"That is such a huge relief," junior forward Kendra Collins said. "We came off a really hard road season, so it's nice to finally say we have a win."

Part of the relief may have come from the fact Missouri isn't used to such stretches without a victory, at least in recent history.

The past two seasons procured two Big 12 championships for Missouri, and also no stretch of more than three games without a win.

For holdovers from those teams, the start of this season may have felt like strange territory.

"It definitely does feel different," senior forward Alysha Bonnick said. "I kind of got a little discouraged in the beginning but it's a new team, we have new goals. Our team is extremely young and all we needed was time and practice."

Though it might not have been getting wins to start the year, coach Bryan Blitz thought his team was making strides nonetheless.

"I think our kids are smart enough to realize that we've been getting better every single game," said Blitz, who earned his 200th career coaching victory with the win.

The Tigers played three ranked teams in their first five games, including No. 1 North Carolina on Aug. 29.

"Bryan kept our spirits up with constantly reminding us we're not at home, we're playing some of the top teams in the nation," Collins said. "As long as we come out and play hard, that's what he wants."

Collins got the Tigers on the right path toward their first victory by netting an unassisted goal less than two minutes into the game.

"Coming out and setting the tone is huge," Collins said. "Making sure that they know it's our field and that we mean business is always a huge thing to do in trying to win a game."

Holding the Razorbacks without a shot on goal the rest of the opening half, the Tigers struck quickly again in the second half.

Within four minutes Bonnick notched her team-leading fourth goal, and Missouri added scores from senior forward/midfielder Kari Adam and sophomore midfielder Haley Krentz to pull away for the victory.

Senior Paula Pritzen got the shutout by turning away three shots in her first start of the season.

With Missouri claiming its first win of the season, Collins believed it could be a building block to bigger things.

"We're building up so we can be Big 12 champs again in the future and take it further and maybe get to the Sweet 16 and go further than that," Collins said.