Missouri and No. 11 Florida traded the lead a few times on Sunday, but as far as the players were concerned the game was deadlocked from start to finish. Each shot was taken like it would be the last and each ball was fought for like there was 30 seconds left.
The Tigers tied the Gators 2-2 at Audrey J. Walton Soccer Complex, but only after two sudden-death overtimes, 47 penalties, and four yellow cards.
“I don’t think we even realized we were up 2-1,” MU junior forward Jennifer Nobis said. “We had 20 minutes left in the game to keep playing hard and I think that’s what we were focused on.”
After the effort, the Tigers (2-3-1) were not content.
“This is a big tie, but we’re not satisfied,” Nobis said.
After Missouri recovered from a slow start and tied the game 1-1 at halftime, it came out strong in the second half. The Tigers scored less than ten minutes into the half when Nobis stole the ball, beat her defender and took a shot on goal. A Florida defender deflected the ball back to Nobis, who then scored her fifth goal of the season on the rebound, giving Missouri the lead for the first time.
From there the lead, the game continued to be a defensive struggle. It was a physical match, with lots of shoving and jostling for each airborne ball. Balls were not surrendered easily and most one-on-one battles ended with at least one player on the ground. This aggressive play led to 27 penalties and three yellow cards for Florida (4-1-1) and 20 penalties and one yellow card for Missouri.
“Anytime you play Florida, they’re known for playing physical,” coach Bryan Blitz said. “Obviously, when you play two physical teams, the ref is going to be the focal point. We like to be physical, so we’re excited about that. I think that’s why we matched their physicality.”
With 20 minutes left in the game, a cornerkick by Florida’s Ashley Kellgren found KeLeigh Hudson near the goal and Hudson got off a shot. It was deflected, but Buehrig could not secure the ball, and Christine Johnson tapped it in for Florida. The game stayed tied as the clock ran out.
The two overtimes played out much like regulation, with neither team able to gain a decisive advantage. Missouri led Florida 4-0 in shots in overtime, but the Tigers could not finish their opportunities.
Blitz said he feels that, despite the loss to Stanford on Friday and the tie on Sunday, his team had a successful weekend.
“I think our kids feel good about their performance,” Blitz said. “They’re disappointed they didn’t get the win. They’re disappointed they lost on Friday, but I think they’re a lot of good things that we needed to come together. I think our team is starting to really believe that they can be a great team, and I think that’s the turning point. We know we’re a good team but we want to be a great team.”When Florida sophomore Stephanie Freeman scored the Gators first goal less than four minutes into the first half, it looked as if the rankings were right. As it has for much of the season, the Missouri offense struggled while the Gators kept the defense busy.
“We can’t chase the game the whole time,” Blitz said. “We have to come out and make a statement right away, as opposed to getting revved up because we’re a goal down and then keep coming back. I think from a soccer standpoint and from a mentality standpoint, we have to come out right away.”
Missouri didn’t stay down for long. After several misses, freshman forward Jena Lind tied the score with 15 minutes to go in the first half.
Lind said she saw Florida goalkeeper Brittni Goodwin come out of the goal and heard her talk to Florida defender Monica Hoyles, who was supposed to head the ball back to Goodwin. Lind intercepted the pass and chipped it into the goal.
“That was the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me,” Lind said. “It’s my first college goal, and I’m a freshmen so nobody expects that much out of a freshmen. I was so happy. I don’t think I could even recall it right now.”
For the rest of the first half, the teams traded offensive attacks with neither team succeeding. At the half, Floridahad six shots to MU’s five and the Gators outshot the Tigers 17-13 in the game. Laura Buehrig, the Tigers’ freshman goalkeeper, went to the locker room with four saves and finished with eight, while Goodman had one in the first and four in the game.