Melissa Peabody might not have saved the season, but she definitely saved the day.
Missouri beat No. 4 Texas A&M 5-4 in overtime Sunday at Audrey J. Walton Stadium. After Missouri went down 4-1 at halftime, Peabody scored three goals, including the winner on a breakaway in overtime to give the Tigers their first Big 12 Conference victory of the year.
Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said the win against the Aggies (11-2-2, 4-1-2) was unexpected and overdue for the Tigers (7-8-1, 1-5-1).
“Who would think that our first conference win would be against Texas A & M?” Blitz said. “That’s never happened in our history. We’ll take it and we deserve it. We’ve been on the other end all year long.”
Texas A&M leads the series with Missouri 6-2, with the Tigers only other victory coming in a 1-0 triumph in 1997 in Columbia.
Four minutes into overtime, Peabody picked up a pass from Jennifer Nobis on the left side and turned toward the goal. Peabody went one-on-one with goalkeeper Kati Jo Spisak and slammed a shot into the lower right corner.
Peabody had a similar chance to give the Tigers the win with a minute left in regulation, but Spisak denied her breakaway attempt.
“Going into overtime, thankfully I had another opportunity,” Peabody said. “I needed to place it lower in the corner and a little bit earlier, so I did.”
Megan Duncan, coming in for regular goalkeeper Stephanie Krawczyk, made four saves in the second half, including a foot save of a shot by Kristen Strutz, the Aggies’ leading scorer, with five minutes left in regulation.
Peabody started the rally five minutes into the second half, taking a pass from Ashley Gibbs on the left side and slicing a shot past Spisak.
In the 77th minute, freshman Elyse Nikonchuck headed in a cross from Karen Bauer for her second goal of the game and the season. It was Nikonchuck’s first game back after officials ejected her from Missouri’s loss to Oklahoma State on Oct. 10.
The Tigers continued to feed off the momentum, and Peabody scored her second goal in the 80th minute. Nobis backed up her defender on the right side before turning and slanting a cross past Spisak. Peabody was waiting on the back post to slide in a shot, completing the Tigers’ comeback and sending Missouri into its fifth overtime of the season.
It was a breakout game for Peabody, who had scored two goals all season coming into the game.
“I don’t care who scores as long as we get the win,” Peabody said. “It was me today, it’s Jenny (Nobis) every other day or (Kristen) Heil. It was a great team effort all around.”
It had been a quick turnaround from the first half.
The Tigers found themselves in the familiar position of playing catch-up early after the Aggies scored on a penalty kick nine minutes into the game. Karen Bauer fouled Laura Probst in the box, and Amanda Burke slid a shot past Krawczyk.
The Tigers responded 30 seconds later with a record-breaking play. Nobis beat her defender on the left side and slid a cross to Adriene Davis. Davis used her right heel to dump a pass to Nikonchuck, who scored her first collegiate goal. It was Davis’ 30th career assist, giving her the MU record.
“I didn’t even know I was that close to (the record),” Davis said. “I just tried to do everything that I could to put us on the board, and I was in the right place at the right time.”
The Tigers could not find that place for the rest of the first half, and the Aggies started using their heads.
In the 20th minute, Annie Burnett sent a cross to Emma Smith, who headed it into the upper right corner.
Seven minutes later, Katherine Krambeer headed in Carrie Berend’s crossing pass. Krambeer headed in another shot with three minutes left in the half. Annie Burnett earned her second assist of the game on the cross to Krambeer, and Texas A&M had a commanding lead.
Missouri’s offense, dormant for most of the season, was in full force for the last home game of the year. It was the first time this year the Tigers scored more than three goals in a game.