COLUMBIA — "Step!" Missouri freshman goalkeeper Kristen Rivers yelled, urging her team forward during a half-field scrimmage at practice.
Rivers is a confident, outgoing speaker, a trait that is amplified when she steps on the pitch. She can be heard, loud and clear, yelling directions to her teammates throughout the scrimmage. It's one of a goalie's main duties.
Missouri will travel to the Texas A&M Tournament this weekend to face No. 9 Baylor and San Diego before returning home to face Eastern Illinois at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13.
The freshman goalkeeper brings a competitive edge to practice. She wants not only to make herself a better player, but Rivers also encourages fellow goalkeeper McKenzie Sauerwein to do the same.
"It is nice to have somebody who is constantly motivating and pushing me," Sauerwein said. "When (Kristen) does well, she is forcing me to do better, and vice versa."
This is much different from last year. Sauerwein was the only active goalkeeper for much of the season as injuries plagued the other goalie.
Sauerwein responded well. She played every minute in goal for Missouri and helped the Tigers to a 14-7-1 record, while earning Southeastern Conference All-Tournament honors. For the season, she posted a 1.07-goals-against average and recorded six shutouts.
Associate head coach Brian Dooley said Rivers is making progress this year and adjusting well to the college game.
"Goalkeeping is such a competitive position by nature," Dooley said. "Our goal as a staff is to prepare her (Kristen) to the best of our ability, so that when she is called on, she will be ready."
Although she seems comfortable on the field, Rivers said it has been somewhat of a challenge transitioning from high school to the college level.
"The level of play is so much faster and more aggressive," Rivers said. "It is definitely really serious, but at the same time, it has been really fun."
As for the competition with Sauerwein, Rivers described it as "healthy" and said she has been learning a lot from the redshirt junior.
"We are both going to push each other in the certain areas we have weaknesses," Rivers said. "I have been watching her (McKenzie) in training and trying to mimic some of the things that she does well."
Sauerwein has played all but 16 minutes in the team's four games so far this season, and she looks to keep the starting spot. But Sauerwein and Rivers will continue to push one another because they know it will help them both improve.