COLUMBIA — Fresh off a hard-fought victory in its first Southeastern Conference home game, the Missouri women's soccer team stood in front of the Walton Stadium bleachers and let out all the energy they had left.
“M-I-Z!” they shouted, piercing the night with a call that can only elicit one response.
Missouri Tigers (8-1) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (4-3-3)
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Walton Stadium, Columbia
The crowd of 1,539 answered with their loudest reply of the night, putting an exclamation point on the most exciting game at Walton so far this season.
Missouri trailed 1-0 until the 63rd minute, when senior Haley Krentz toed the end line like a gymnast and then crossed the ball in to sophomore Abi Raymer, who put it in the goal for the tie.
In the 79th minute, after Missouri was granted a corner kick, the fans began to stomp their feet on the bleachers, creating a thunderous sound that echoed throughout the stadium. Krentz drilled a line drive across the goalie’s face that bounced to redshirt freshman Lauren Flynn, who placed a perfect shot into the upper netting.
Each goal was one of several moments that evoked a football-like feel. Others included chants of “block that kick” during Ole Miss set pieces and “Go… Tigers!” when goalie McKenzie Sauerwein would launch a goal kick into the night sky. Several fans even tailgated in the parking lot.
“It was great,” coach Bryan Blitz said of the fan support. “Hopefully, we gave them enough to make them come back.”
The large crowd was partially due to a marketing campaign put in to place this week for the Tigers’ SEC home opener. Missouri marketing graduate assistant Adam Garrett was responsible for leading the charge along with some of the soccer players.
They created Facebook videos, handed out neon-retro sunglasses to students, posted fliers on campus, and drove around in a golf-cart with a megaphone imploring fans to show up.
“I think it generated quite a bit of excitement,” Garrett said.
The excitement spread across the stadium Friday night. The Tigers placed new sections of bleachers near two corners of the pitch, added SEC banners behind one of the goals, a blowup playhouse for kids near one of the entrances, and even invited the Missouri drumline to play the halftime show.
Missouri junior Caitlyn Gabbert was one of many who attended a Missouri soccer game for the first time.
“I used to not like soccer,” Gabbert said. “But after watching the Olympics over the summer, I needed to go to a Mizzou game.”
The Tigers kept their SEC record (3-0) unblemished with the win, and improved their overall record to 8-1. The team hopes the fans that showed up to the game will continue to give their support throughout the rest of the season.
Senior forward Taiwo Adeshigbin had some words of advice for those who have still never seen the Tigers play.
“It’s the best experience ever,” Adeshigbin said.