Depth was the key.
While Missouri struggled to overcome injuries, Kansas used its bench to defeat the Tigers 2-0 on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament at Audrey J. Walton Stadium.
Caroline Smith, a sophomore forward for the No. 16 Jayhawks, broke a scoreless tie in the 78th minute. After Rachel Gilfillan’s corner kick was batted around in the goalkeeper’s box, Smith collected it and scored her 19th of the season from 10 yards out among a crowd of players.
Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said injuries to starters Elyse Nikonchuck and Amber Swinehart hurt his team’s play. Nikonchuck re-injured her right knee and Swinehart hurt a toe. Both missed the second half and watched as Kansas outshot the Tigers 11-1 in the half.
“I think the injuries were a part of it,” Blitz said. “(Kansas) had a few more healthy players, but they deserved to win the game.”
Kansas coach Mark Francis said he knew that his bench would play an important role.
“At the end of the first half, we could see people were getting tired, so we made a couple of substitutions,” he said. “Our bench did a great job of coming in and giving us fresh legs.”
Francis said the Jayhawks considered themselves underdogs because of how well Missouri has played recently.
“Missouri’s a very good team,” Francis said. “I saw them play in the conference tournament and Friday, and they’re a different team right now than when we played them the last time.”
Missouri also lost to Kansas 2-0 on Oct. 12.
Blitz said his defense did a good job denying chances for Smith, Kansas’ scoring leader and a semifinalist for the Hermann Award, the highest individual honor in women’s collegiate soccer.
“The thing with Caroline, she’s a poacher,” Blitz said. “She’s a natural goal scorer, and she got the first goal. But she didn’t do anything for 60 or 70 minutes. She gets one chance to finish, and that’s what makes her a quality player.”
The Tigers (12-11-1) had several chances to take the lead in the first half. Missouri outshot Kansas 8-4 in the half, but Jennifer Nobis and Melissa Peabody could not convert on good opportunities.
In the seventh minute, Peabody had a clear shot at the goal but pushed it wide. In the 12th minute, a Nobis steal at midfield set up a one-on-one chance, but Jayhawks’ goalkeeper Meghan Miller came out of the net to take the ball from Nobis.
The Jayhawks (18-5-1) shut down the Tigers in the second half, taking the first eight shots and not allowing the Tigers an opportunity until Kristen Heil’s attempt from the corner in the 70th minute.
In the 89th minute, Carmel Kaplinger scored on an assist from Kimberly Karfonta and ended Missouri’s hopes.
Missouri goalkeeper Megan Duncan, a senior, made five saves to finish at 9-4.