COLUMBIA — Haley Krentz stood still inside the 18-yard box with everything on the line.
With a stiff wind directly in her face, the senior took a deep breath, planted her left foot and drove the Missouri soccer team's season off the crossbar and into the night sky.
The 3-0 loss in penalty kicks to Illinois after a 1-1 tie in regulation put the punctuation on the Tigers’ year.
Missouri lost six of its last eight games — five of them by only one goal — but this one was the most heartbreaking. After a 14-7 record earned the team its first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 2008, the Tigers were eliminated in the first round in excruciating fashion.
“It’s hard knowing that we had our chances,” senior Jessica Greer said.
Those chances were many.
After junior Danielle Nottingham tied the game 1-1 with an amazing 30-yard goal in the 53rd minute —“It was a rocket,” Illinois goalkeeper Steph Panozzo said, Nottingham and Krentz both hit posts with deep shots in regular time before the final crossbar thwack in penalty kicks.
Following that final miss from Krentz, Illinois freshman Aliina Weycamp beat a diving McKenzie Sauerwein for the Illini’s third straight successful penalty shot, and the game ended as a giant mob of blue and orange bounced up and down on the Walton Stadium grass, victorious.
Missouri coach Bryan Blitz was not on the sideline after being ejected from the Southeastern Conference Tournament game against Florida on Nov. 4. Assistant Todd Shulenberger took over for Saturday night but dismissed the idea that the Tigers’ game day routine was much different without their head honcho.
“I was just directing traffic out there,” Shulenberger said.
Illinois moves on to play at North Carolina on Nov. 18 in the round of 32. Junior midfielder Allie Osoba scored the Illini's regulation goal in the 19th minute after taking a pass from senior forward Shayla Mutz and crossing a shot just inside the left post.
The Tigers begin their offseason earlier than they had hoped.
Greer knows this loss will bug her for a long time.
“This will be one of those games I’ll look back on when I’m watching my kids play soccer one day,” Greer said. “It just didn’t go our way.”