Missouri rewarded for tough schedule

Tuesday, November 11, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:56 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

The regular season did not live up to expectations, but the Missouri women’s soccer team is making sure the postseason does.

The Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history, joining seven other Big 12 Conference teams. Before this season, the most the conference has sent has been four.

Coach Bryan Blitz was optimistic about his team’s berth, despite an overall record of 11-10-1.

“The NCAA is making a statement about our tough schedule,” Blitz said. “We’re playing the best to be the best.”

Missouri lost in the first round of the 1999 NCAA tournament.

Missouri will host the four Central Region seeds this weekend at Audrey J. Walton Stadium for the first and second rounds. Thirteenth-seeded Kansas will face Illinois State at 4 p.m. Friday, and then Missouri and Eastern Illinois play at 7 p.m. The winners will meet at 1 p.m. Sunday. Only the top 16 teams in the tournament are seeded.

Missouri needed a strong showing in the Big 12 Tournament, after a season full of ups and downs. The Tigers faced 11 ranked opponents in 21 matches and finished the season with a 3-6-1 conference record. After earning a berth in the conference tournament, Missouri became the first eighth-seeded team to advance to the championship game. The Tigers defeated Colorado 2-0 and Nebraska 3-2 before falling to seventh-seeded Oklahoma State 3-2 in double-overtime.

This will be the second time this season that Missouri will play Eastern Illinois. The Tigers won 3-2 in overtime on Sept. 19, and Blitz said his team has come a long way since that game.

“We’ve won six of our last eight games against good competition,” Blitz said. “We expect a tough match.”

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