First, Missouri had to get healthy. Then it could get down to business.
The women’s soccer team stunned the Big 12 Conference at the league tournament last weekend, becoming the first eighth seed to advance to the championship game, where it lost to Oklahoma State 3-2 in double overtime in San Antonio.
On Monday, the Tigers (11-10-1) were selected to the NCAA Tournament and will host the first round this weekend at Audrey J. Walton Stadium.
The Tigers meet Eastern Illinois at 7 p.m. Friday. In the first game, Kansas plays Illinois State at 4. The winners meet at 1 p.m. Sunday.
After winning only three conference games, Missouri defeated No. 1 seed Colorado 2-0 in the first round and Nebraska 3-2 in the second round of the Big 12 Tournament. It was the first time the Tigers had beaten the Cornhuskers.
Coach Bryan Blitz said his team’s success in the Big 12 Tournament was a testament to the adversity it faced all season.
“Our kids simply continued to believe that the hard work would pay off,” Blitz said. “We faced tough teams, tough injuries and continued to push through. It’s a great life lesson.”
Senior Stephanie Krawczyk said the turnaround was only a matter of time.
“The way we played this weekend was the way we could’ve been playing all year,” Krawczyk said. “We had the potential to be close to undefeated. We had a lot of injuries and that’s just the way the season went.”
Seven starters had injuries severe enough to remove them from the lineup for substantial periods.
The Tigers had almost all of their starting lineup for the conference tournament, with freshman Aria Hudetz coming in off the bench.
Hudetz said the Big 12 Tournament was a big step for the Tigers.
“We got the chance to show people what we could do and let them see us at our best,” Hudetz said.
As the Tigers prepare for the NCAA Tournament this weekend, all of their starters, except Lacy Moore, who tore her right anterior cruciate ligament Sept. 12, are expected to play.