COLUMBIA — Jessica Greer has only started three games this year, but she is a big reason why the Missouri soccer team is off to the best start the program has ever had.
The mentality she’s adopted has carried her and her teammates to a potential Southeastern Conference championship season.
No. 14 Missouri Tigers (12-2)
at No. 9 Florida Gators (10-3-1)
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Gainesville, Fla.
Greer started 20 games as a junior and expected to receive just as much playing time in 2012. But after the Tigers recruited a number of talented players and other players' injuries healed, she found herself out of the starting lineup more often than not.
She’s not ready to hang her head, though.
“This year we have a different mentality,” Greer said. “You always want to play every minute of the game, but in the end, we all win together, and we all lose together.”
The Tigers boast a lot of depth. Nine different women have scored goals, and the team didn’t miss a beat when top scorer Alyssa Diggs missed four games early in the season; the team won three of them.
Senior Kelsey Mulcahy made her first start of the season on Friday against Kentucky, when the lineup was shuffled following an illness to striker Taiwo Adeshigbin. Mulcahy played all 90 minutes in a 2-1 overtime victory.
“Everyone is stepping into their roles this year very nicely,” Mulcahy said. “Whether you’re playing 100 percent of the game or 0 percent, you’re pushing your teammates to the next level.”
The deep talent pool has been a blessing for the Tigers in a new conference, according to coach Bryan Blitz.
“A 13-game season is a bear, and if you don’t have the depth, you’re going to be in trouble,” Blitz said.
The team has a 7-1 mark in the SEC, good enough for first in the Eastern Division. Its 12-2 overall record is the best start since the program's inception in 1996. Still, Missouri faces a few more challenges before they can wrap up an NCAA Tournament bid.
The No. 14 Tigers face the No. 9 Florida Gators on Friday night to decide sole possession of first place in the SEC East. Don’t expect Greer and the other seniors — most of whom weren’t around for Missouri’s last NCAA Tournament appearance in 2008 — to take anything for granted.
“We’re taking it into our own hands to make sure we reach our goals,” Greer said. “A lot of us have been let down toward the end of the season by ourselves.”
Blitz said he is proud of the way Greer, Mulcahy and others have adjusted in their final year as Tigers.
“A lot of the older kids could’ve pouted, but they’ve really been sacrificing for the team,” Blitz said.