COLUMBIA — Members of the MU men’s club soccer team started practicing with the Missouri women’s team when coach Bryan Blitz joined the women's program in 1996.
Now, four or five members of the men’s team participate in the women’s team practices, according to Brett Spencer, a senior forward on the club team. Blitz said going against the men’s club team helps his team tighten up its style of play.
Missouri (1-3-2) vs. Loyola Md. (2-4-1)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Walton Stadium
“The physical part of the game is beneficial,” Blitz said. “Their touch has to be a little bit cleaner, so their focus on their skill has to be cleaner.”
How playing against the men’s club team translates into games can be found in Missouri’s attacking style of play, senior midfielder Krista Kruse said.
“In each game you can tell, we have more fouls than any team because it trains us to play harder and more aggressive,” Kruse said. "Mentally it just tells us we have to go harder and stronger."
That aggressiveness shows on the scorecard as well. The Tigers have out-fouled opponents 90-40 so far this season.
For junior forward Kendra Collins, it's the simple difference in size between players on the two teams that pushes the Tigers to work harder and gives them an advantage.
“They’re a lot faster and a lot bigger than we are, so when we go against girls we have the mentality that they’re our own size, they’re more of our own pace, so we can beat them,” junior forward Kendra Collins said.
In addition to the increase of physicality, Blitz said there is a mental side in playing the men’s club team.
“They can’t really use their all-out speed to beat the boys because it’s just not going to happen, so they have to outthink them,” Blitz said.
Through sharing practice time and facilities with the men’s club team, Collins said her team gets a new perspective on the game.
“It gives a new mentality, a different way of looking at the game that we wouldn’t have playing against other girls,” Collins said.
Blitz said the Tigers try to get club team members at every practice, but players’ schedules can be obstacles.
“We try to get them here for three practices a week,” Blitz said. “Most likely we get two out of three.”
Club team members participate in drills during practices and scrimmage against the women’s team before and during the season. The next scrimmage will take place Sunday.
Spencer said upperclassmen are commonly the players who participate.
For Spencer the benefits of practicing with the women's team include getting extra time to work on his game.
“We only practice a couple days a week, so coming out here, it helps us bring up our skills because we get more touches on the ball,” Spencer said.
“We get to do the same drills that they’re doing and play a lot more than I would otherwise,” senior defender Dave Menne said. “We get to play against a lot of good athletes.”
Playing on the field at Walton Stadium is another perk for the club team members, who opened their season with a win over Truman State on Friday.
“Since we’re not a Division I team, we don’t get all the benefits a Division I team does,” Menne said. “I try to take advantage of the good facilities and the extra time (to practice).”