Coach pins hopes on fast learners

Friday, September 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:19 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

MU soccer coach Bryan Blitz hopes his team will show how quickly it can learn from mistakes at this weekend’s Nike Tiger Invitational.

The Tigers are 1-1 after losing 4-1 to Illinois on Sunday. MU had a rough first half against the Illini, but was able to recover and play a much better second half. Junior forward Jennifer Nobis, who scored the lone goal against Illinois, said the improvement in the second half shows the team can learn quickly from its mistakes.

“We kind of lost pretty bad this weekend,” Nobis said. “I think we lost during the 15 minutes at the end of the first half, and I think learning from that experience, coming into the second half, we did a lot better and we changed a lot more things.”

As the Tigers take on Wisconsin at 7 tonight at Audrey J. Walton Soccer Complex and Iowa at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, they will have a chance to prove Nobis right about her team. Both opposing teams are expected to be difficult for MU, especially 2-0 Wisconsin.

Blitz said while the loss to Illinois was disappointing, it helped the team figure out what works and what doesn’t.

“We learned a lot of things about our team,” Blitz said. “I think we’re starting to settle into some type of a routine. There are still some positions open, but we’re starting to get into more of a rhythm.”

In preparation for this weekend’s games, Nobis said the Tigers have retooled their offense, changing the shape up front. Nobis said the change is a big improvement that will help create more offensive opportunities.

“Today at practice it went really, really well so I think we’ll have high confidence on this new change that we are doing,” said Nobis on Wednesday. “It really opened up some options for us.”

The team’s ability to quickly adjust to change could be a result of this squad’s high level of experience. The Tigers’ lineup includes seven seniors which Blitz said have helped contribute to the team’s high expectations for success.

Nobis said the veterans on the team help make the transition for the freshmen easier. Any time a freshman is on the field she is surrounded by more experienced players who know how things work and have played in similar situations.

Senior defender Karen Bauer agrees that the older players can help the new ones on the field.

“I think it’s just important to try to be as consistent as possible because I think you’re better through actions than words,” said Bauer. “I think all of the seniors have been really consistent and really stepping it up, so I think all of us have been doing a really good job.”

The freshmen seem to be benefiting from the veterans’ good examples.

Blitz said he was pleased with the play of the freshmen so far and that they have added some much needed depth to the team. Freshmen goalie Laura Buehrig had a tough weekend but still managed eight saves against Illinois.

“I feel real comfortable playing with all the girls,” said freshman goalie Laura Buehrig. “They’re awesome. They help me settle in really well.”

As Buehrig and the freshmen continue to settle in, they look forward to their first home game. “We’ve had glimpses of playing really great soccer, but we haven’t put a full game together,” said Blitz. “And that’s kind of what we’re looking to do, play two full, complete games against some very good competition from the Big 10.”

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