COLUMBIA — Her shirt soaked through with rain and sweat, MU goalkeeper McKenzie Sauerwein was right in her element at the end of Wednesday morning's soccer practice: on the field surrounded by a squad that has consumed her time and energy for five years.
Now a redshirt senior who notched her program-best 36th career win Sunday against Southern Methodist University in a 3-1 victory, Sauerwein has every reason to bask in the glory of personal accomplishments but prefers the focus to be only on her team.
“There is no way that this would have happened without the 10 other players out there on the field with me,” she said.
The North Richland Hills, Texas, native said her parents watched from the stands as she broke the school career wins record Sunday in Dallas, only about 30 miles from her family's home.
“It was really cool to play basically in my hometown," she said. "My parents have barely missed any games during my career here."
Sauerwein said things have changed between the day she stepped foot on campus and now. Coach Bryan Blitz has seven true freshmen on the roster this season, and Sauerwein is the only member of her recruiting class still on the team.
“Most of the girls that I came in with are no longer here, so I am just focusing on the younger girls,” she said.
Associate head coach Brian Dooley said Sauerwein is showing younger teammates the way things are done.
"(Leadership) has been a big area of growth for her," Dooley said. "One of the big areas there is how she is working with our other goalkeeper (sophomore Kristen Rivers).
"What I have seen is an extremely competitive kid who wants to do whatever she can to help the team," he said.
Dooley said he has seen all-around improvements in Sauerwein's goalkeeping play. She's made several incredible stops throughout her career, such as one last year against Vanderbilt in a 1-1 tie. It was vivid to Dooley: In the 35th minute, she parried a shot, scrambled to her feet and dove to nab a second shot. It saved the game, he said, and every time he thinks of her, he thinks of that moment.
"She has extended her range dramatically," he said. "She’s comfortable playing outside of the penalty box. That’s something that really experienced goalkeepers do."
Sauerwein graduated from Missouri with an undergraduate degree in health sciences and is now enrolled in an online graduate program for educational and counseling psychology.
She said she will remain in Columbia through the soccer season. After that, her future is less clear.
“I want to keep playing soccer,” she said. “My plan is to hopefully play overseas and then come back and maybe coach.”
For now, Sauerwein said her team is focused on each game, one at a time, as the Tigers prepare for Southeastern Conference play.
“We’re just looking to do better at the things we did not do well over the weekend at TCU and SMU,” Sauerwein said.
And earn win No. 37.
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