COLUMBIA — During the Missouri soccer team’s game with Texas Christian University on Sunday, a Missouri scoring chance turned into a scramble of bodies in front of the net. The TCU goalkeeper dove to the ground, saving a shot. Again and again Missouri players kicked the ball at the yawning goal only a few feet away. Again and again, TCU defenders threw their bodies in front of the ball to thwart scoring chances.
Finally, Missouri sophomore Michelle Collins emerged from the fray and slipped the ball into the left corner of the goal. Order was restored.
“That (goal) was just a matter of, once you’re in the box you just have to put it in the back of the net,” Collins said.
As a soccer player and as a student, Collins finds ways to succeed, whether that means scoring a goal in a tangle of players or sorting out the meaning of Renaissance literature. Collins is having a well-rounded student-athlete experience at MU. She is tied for the team lead in goals, has taken honors college courses and has served as a mentor to younger players.
The goal against TCU was Collins’ seventh of the year, tying her with sophomore Kristin Andrighetto for the team lead. Collins is also second on the team in points with 17. Earlier in the season, Collins was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week.
This success came after a freshman season that Collins has called “a disappointment.” She missed some games with an ankle injury last year, and scored one goal that season.
Collins, who is from Naperville, Ill., passed her freshman goal total in the first game this year, scoring two goals in Missouri’s win over then-No. 20 Illinois.
Collins is balancing her success on the field with some impressive classroom work. Last year she took some honors humanities classes in classic literature.
“My professor, Bondeson, he’s been here since like...” Collins said, breaking off into a smile. “Some girl raised her hand and was like, ‘Yeah my grandma had you.’ He’s been here forever. I really enjoyed his class.”
Collins, who intends to major in speech pathology, said she read material about the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, things she says she likes to read about.
Collins’ experiences at MU on and off the soccer field have allowed her to help her younger teammates. The Missouri soccer team has a “big sister” program that pairs up older players with younger players to help them adjust to life at MU and on the soccer team. This year Collins is a big sister for freshman Alysha Bonnick.
“We find out our assignments in the summer,” Collins said. “You let them know you can answer questions and make them feel as comfortable as possible.”
Bonnick, who is from North Gower, Ontario, said she can talk with Collins about both soccer and non-soccer things.
“If I have any questions, she’s always there to help me out,” Bonnick said. “If I need help with soccer, if I’m feeling homesick, or something, she’s always there for me, no matter what. I can go to her and she’ll always be there to comfort me, even if it’s soccer or nothing that has to do with soccer.”
With seven goals from Collins and Andrighetto, as well as five from Bonnick, Missouri has many scoring options. Collins said the players don’t focus on scoring more goals than each other.
“I think (Andrighetto) had the most goals last year,” Collins said. “We’re just looking to build off that. Every one of us can contribute to scoring...I don’t think it’s a competition, really. It’s just we’re finding our opportunities and putting it in the back of the net.”
Although Collins and Andrighetto have scored several goals, Missouri coach Bryan Blitz said the team has enough capable scorers to take the pressure off any one player.
“I think we’re really fortunate in that we don’t have to look for one person,” Blitz said. “I think last year we really counted on one forward. I think this year it’s so evenly spread out that I don’t know if we count on one person specifically. I think we just count on our attack as a whole to come in and try to win games for us.”
Collins has been an efficient contributor to the Missouri offensive attack. She has accumulated her goals and points on only 17 shots, 11 of which have been on goal.
Collins’ involvement in sports runs in her family. Her dad, Patrick, played football at the University of Wisconsin. Collins chose to go to Missouri over Wisconsin, Illinois State and Northwestern.