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MU soccer seniors spearhead thrilling comeback against Kansas

Friday, October 21, 2011 | 11:19 p.m. CDT; updated 5:27 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 22, 2011
Missouri sophomore forward Alyssa Diggs dribbles the ball against Kansas freshman defense Jami Vaughn during the game Friday at Walton Stadium. Missouri beat Kansas 3-2.

COLUMBIA — It was every MU senior player's dream come true, times three.

The MU women's soccer team came back from a 2-0 deficit in the final six minutes Friday for a 3-2 win against the Kansas Jayhawks at Walton Stadium.

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All three of Missouri's seniors netted goals in what might have been their last game against Kansas, unless the teams play each other during the Big 12 postseason.

Despite conceding the first two goals, things did not start poorly for MU.

The team dominated possession in a scoreless first half, but in the second half the Tigers found themselves two goals behind after 82 minutes.

Two defensive errors was all it took for the Jayhwaks to convert a couple of goals.

The crowd at Walton Stadium, which had been making noise and cheering for Missouri throughout the game, watched in disbelief. The stands were suddenly quiet. The way things had happened would have discouraged any team.

Not the Tigers.

Senior forward Kendra Collins scored the Tigers' first goal in the 84th minute. It was her third goal of the season.

Cheers and chants returned to the stands on both sides of the field. There was still time to for an equalizer, several fans yelled.

As if she had heard the fans, senior defender Mallory Stipetich ran forward to the Kansas goal less than a minute after Collins' goal. Stipetich's header off of a free kick beat the Kansas goalkeeper and tied the game in the 85th minute.

The crowd went ballistic. Fans jumped off their seats, shouting and applauding. The players and coaches at the Missouri bench also celebrated the Tigers' second goal by running around and hugging each other.

But it was not over yet.

With little more than one minute remaining, sophomore forward Alyssa Diggs fell inside the Kansas penalty area. The referee blew his whistle for a penalty kick.

As senior midfielder Kelsey Blincow stepped up to take the penalty kick, Missouri's head coach Bryan Blitz looked away from the field.

"I don't think I even looked at the penalty," Blitz said. "It was like a scary movie."

But the scary movie had a happy ending. Blincow converted the penalty kick into a goal. The crowd shouted and chanted. The Missouri players hugged each other and danced.

"I just can't even believe this is real life," Blincow said, a big smile on her face. "This is probably the craziest comeback I've ever been a part of."

And the fact that it was against the Tigers' classic rival, Kansas, made it even sweeter, she said.

Blitz praised the mature attitude his senior players have displayed not only during Friday's win but throughout the season.

"The seniors have really got us going this year," Blitz said. "The young players see the seniors working so hard in practice and during games, and they feel like they (have) to work hard, too. It's all senior leadership."

The senior players have also understood their role in the team.

"(After Kansas scored its second goal) my head went down for a couple of minutes," Stipetich said. "But I knew I had to help this team because we have three seniors and a lot of young players. So all three of us obviously stepped up and came out big for us tonight."

The Tigers host Iowa State 6:30 p.m. Friday at Walton Stadium for their last game of the regular season.

"This means so much to us," Collins said. "We have gone through so much, and this is part of who we are. It's one of those awesome feelings. I couldn't have asked for a better senior class."


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