Missouri’s victory Sunday was a boost in confidence for the Tigers with Big 12 Conference play nearing. The win meant even more, though, to sophomore midfielder Lauren Vineyard.
Missouri beat Loyola-Chicago 2-1 at Audrey J. Walton Soccer Complex to improve to 3-4-1 with games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State approaching next weekend.
Vineyard, who joined MU this season as a transfer from Loyola, almost lost the opportunity to face her former teammates.
Vineyard sliced open her left leg on a sign as she slid out of bounds during Missouri’s 1-0 loss to Kentucky on Friday. After the injury, her mind wasn’t on the gash in her leg or the four stitches needed to close it up.
“Right when I got injured I was just like, as long as I get to play on Sunday, I don’t care what happens,” Vineyard said. “I’m getting through it. Just patch it up a little bit and send me out there.”
She got to play but the situation could have been better.
Thirteen minutes into the first half, Elyse Nikonchuk, sophomore midfielder who was a member of the Big 12 All-Tournament Team last season, landed badly on her left ankle. She sat out the rest of the game, and coach Bryan Blitz said her playing status is questionable.
Vineyard came in for Nikonchuk, with her leg bandaged to protect her injury.
“Exciting, nervous, fun, you name the emotion, I had it,” Vineyard said.
Vineyard’s teammates seemed to share her enthusiasm. After struggling with slow starts throughout the season, the Tigers scored two goals in the first 20 minutes.
Missouri sophomore Aria Hudetz scored her first goal of the season three minutes into the first half. Senior defender Lacy Moore brought the ball to midfield and passed to senior forward Shea Swoboda, who got the ball within Loyola’s penalty area and then passed to Hudetz.
“It felt good to get one,” Hudetz said. “It was a perfect pass from Shea Swoboda, so I feel like if I would have missed it, I would have been really disappointed in myself.”
Swoboda and Hudetz had been solid contributors from the bench in past games and were recently added to the starting lineup. Blitz said the offensive opportunities they could create pleased him.
“If we can spread it around and not just rely on one or two people, that’s good,” Blitz said. “That’s why those guys got to start, Aria (Hudetz) and Shea (Swoboda), they showed well in practice, and they deserved to start.”
The Tigers were strong offensively for the next 20 minutes. Moore scored the team’s second goal about 27 minutes into the half to bring the score to 2-0. Vineyard got the ball to midfield and passed to senior forward Kristen Heil, who found junior forward Jennifer Nobis in the corner. Nobis then chipped it to Moore.
“It was fun just to connect,” Vineyard said. “It was about time. We’ve been practicing our offensive and running off the ball, changing our formation a little bit. It just finally connected.”
Missouri’s success did not continue in the second half. Swoboda said the team’s problems were mostly mental.
“Once we got up, we kind of let down and we kind of settled into playing a lot slower game,” Swoboda said. “I would say, yeah, I think it was more about us.”
After a Missouri penalty less than ten minutes into the second half, Loyola’s Heather Sorgatzsenior defender scored on a free kick when her shot bounced off the crossbars and behind MU goalkeeper Laura Buehrig.
The Tigers’ held Loyola to six shots in the game. The defense also did well protecting Buehrig, who ended the game with four saves.
“All the way through, (the defense has) been doing an outstanding job in carrying us,” Blitz said. “Our goals-against average is down. We’re trying to find that rhythm attacking-wise, and we haven’t yet. We’ve been finding bits and pieces, but the one thing that’s been solid for us is defense. We pride ourselves on that.”