Kruse sets tone for Missouri soccer team's tough defense

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | 8:23 p.m. CDT; updated 12:09 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Missouri's Krista Kruse slides to make a play against Texas A&M's Lyndsey Gnatzig in Big 12 competition in October in Columbia.

COLUMBIA — The scar sits just below Krista Kruse’s left eyebrow.

Now, a month and a half after she was hurt, the scar blends in with her skin tone. But if you look close enough you can see it.

It’s a reminder of the five stitches Kruse received after she was cut during a game against Loyola Maryland on Sept. 17 when she collided with the Greyhounds' goalkeeper.

Such aggressive play is typical for the senior, who sets the tone for a Missouri team not afraid to get after its opponents. The Tigers’ pressing defense finished the regular season leading the conference in fouls with 243.

When No. 6 seed Missouri takes on No. 3 seed Nebraska in the Big 12 Tournament at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Blossom Soccer Stadium in San Antonio, Kruse will be bringing her high-energy playing style.

“The kid would go through a wall,” Missouri assistant coach Todd Shulenberger said.

During games it’s typical to see Kruse knifing after the ball on slide tackles and bounding into the air for headers. She is used to the punishment of her playing style. Kruse broke her nose her freshman year going for a header.

“I’m not really scared to get up for anything,” Kruse said. “That’s how we train, to beat each other up.”

Kruse cultivated her toughness by hanging out and playing football with her older brother and his friends when she was growing up. Now she stands as a model to her teammates on how to play the kind of defense the Tigers are known for.

“I try to show by example,” Kruse said. “If you go in hard then other people will go in hard.”

Kruse brings her aggressive style to the practice field as well. After playing and practicing with Kruse for three seasons, junior Kendra Collins has come to see Kruse as a “never-ending ball of energy.” Collins said Kruse's all-out effort can make her teammates step up their aggressiveness in practice.

"You're aware she's there," Collins said. "You have to go in hard because she’s going in hard."

Collins has gotten used to seeing Kruse assert herself on the field.

“She’s everywhere all the time,” Collins said. “Flinging her body, doing whatever it takes to make sure she’s playing her best.”

There's not too much that will slow down Kruse. Her resiliency is something the Tigers have come to expect.

After getting cut against Loyola Maryland, Kruse went to the sidelines to get stitched up. After a couple minutes, Kruse was back on the field to help the Tigers earn a 3-2 double-overtime victory.

“It wasn’t like oh my goodness, she’s getting stitched up, she wants to go back in,” Shulenberger said. “It was like, this is what Krista does, and we know that and that’s what she’s going to do.”

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