The Missouri’s women’s soccer team asserted its dominance early and never looked back.
The Tigers defeated the Arizona Wildcats 3-1 on Sunday to clinch the championship of the Tiger Invitational. Missouri beat the Purdue Boilermakers 2-1 on Friday night giving them two wins this weekend to improve to 4-0.
“Our goal coming in was just to play our hardest,” MU forward Kristen Heil said. “Sometimes we struggle with playing our best on Sunday games.”
Heil was voted the most valuable player in the tournament, scoring a goal in each of the Tigers’ victories. MU’s Erica Pusch, Aria Hudetz, Ashley Gibbs and Jennifer Nobis were also named to the All-Tournament team.
The Tigers used their speed up front along with a few well-placed long balls to take an early lead against the Wildcats.
In the seventh minute, Amber Swinehart sent a short pass to Heil at the top of the box. Heil turned on her defenders and pushed her shot into the lower left corner for a quick Missouri lead.
“It was a team effort,” Heil said. “I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Seven minutes later, Nobis increased Missouri’s lead. She took a long ball from Gibbs down the right side, sliding in a goal past diving Arizona goalkeeper Krystal Werges. Nobis had an assist on Friday night to bring her team-leading points total to eight.
Missouri wasn’t done. In the 19th minute, Hudetz sent a long cross to on the left side to Gibbs, who slanted a shot into the right side of the net. Gibbs continually threatened the Arizona defense with her speed during the first half, spreading the field with long runs down the left side.
“Coach (Bryan) Blitz told us at the beginning of the game that we needed to get wide and that was the key to beating this team, “Gibbs said. “That’s what I tried to do and my teammates saw me and played me the ball.”
With a comfortable 3-0 lead, Missouri relaxed its attack, and the Wildcats took advantage in the 61st minute. Traci Adler sent a cross through the goal box that Missouri couldn’t clear. Arizona’s Mallory Miller made a short pass to teammate Vanesha Bailey, who slid the ball past goalkeeper Megan Duncan to cut the Tigers’ lead to 3-1.
Missouri’s defense increased its intensity for the rest of the game, fighting off tough Arizona pressure, including three corner kicks in the last three minutes. Duncan picked up her second win, recording five saves while allowing one goal.
“It was a tale of two halves, “ Blitz said. “We played great in the first half, and then really they outshot us and outcornered us. We’ll see better teams, and we could get punished.”
Purdue claimed second in the tournament, defeating Arkansas 4-0. Arkansas was third with a 3-2 win against Arizona.
“The good thing is that we won our own tournament,” Blitz said. “It was a group effort. Looking at the score sheet, it was a lot of players contributing.
“We’re always going to score goals, but it’s all the other stuff that goes along with it.”