MU tries to break skid

Friday, October 13, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:57 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Missouri soccer fan can’t fault the team for being a bit on edge lately.

The Tigers are on a season-high four-game losing skid and are winless in the Big 12 Conference. For a team that has thrived on streaks this season, however, this most recent one has not diminished spirits within the team.

“We control the things we can control,and it’s all you can really ask for at this point, but the team is working hard and still together,” Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said.

An energized Tigers team practiced Thursday for the last time before this weekend’s set of games, including the home finale against Kansas. An intrasquad scrimmage took place on the north end of the practice field, with the black team defeating the white team 10-9.

The back-and-forth scoring resembled the offensive capabilities the team possessed early in the season when it started off with seven consecutive victories, including five straight shutouts. The Tigers were ranked as high as No. 14 in the national polls.

Now coming off their fourth consecutive loss and their sixth in their past seven games, players said the work has been there, but not the resolve when playing from behind.

“I think a lot of us feel like once we get down, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves,” midfielder Elyse Nikonchuk said. “It’s a team and individual focus thing, and if we let down individually, we start to do that as a team as well.”

Goalkeeper Mallory Forst benefited from the airtight defense Missouri played in those first seven games, as the Tigers had a lead in each contest.

“We need to limit how much time we spend coming from behind because our offense is based on staying calm and creating those shots,” she said. “I think we need to work on the little details and stop giving up easy goals in the first 30 seconds and the last 30 seconds.”

The team realizes what the coming weeks could mean for the its postseason chances. Blitz said four wins will certainly get the Tigers into the Big 12 tournament and, with its strength of schedule, winning out could get the team into the NCAA tournament.

Older players realize the urgency of winning during the remaining schedule but are drawing calmness from prior experience.

“Not to say we are used to it, but we are aware of the situation and how the pressure will be, and I think it’s our responsibility to conduct the younger ones and those who don’t already know,” Nikonchuk said.

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